Tag Archives: Sustainable

Fed at Restaurant As

Searching for Utopia, Apollolaan, Amsterdam

Seek, or Stumble Upon, and Ye Shall Find!

This week is restaurant week in the Netherlands. This twice yearly event is a great opportunity to find and try out new restaurants, as well as revisit some classics, without denting your wallet too much.

On Tuesday, I ventured south for some new discoveries. Firstly, I happened across this huge golden turtle being ridden by a man in an Elvis suit (the Vegas years). I only discovered it because I’ve managed to wrench my arm, and I was on the tram. Had I been using my usual form of transport (bike) I would actually have come a different way. A bit of a google later, and I have discovered that this is “Searching for Utopia”, by Jan Fabre, and apparently the man in the Elvis suit is the artist himself. It was a part of the last biennial artzuid sculpture trail. Apparently, the locals love it so much, that they are having a bit of a whip round so that the can purchase it. I really quite like this idea, and I hope they get to keep the sculpture. Sadly, this is quite far off the beaten track for many tourists, but the locals clearly enjoy it.

The second discovery was As, on the border of the Beatrix Park. Set in a circular room, and set up like a wheel, this is a restaurant that trades on its sustainable principles. I went along with a group of friends to take advantage of the restaurant week deal. It also meant that I could eat meat in this restaurant.

I may have mentioned before that I am not a vegetarian, but I do not really eat a lot of meat. There are many reasons for this, which include climate change, waste and welfare concerns, not to mention cost. When I do eat meat (in which I include fish – nothing irritates me more than asking for a veggie option and being offered a tuna sandwich, it brings out the worst in me, and I become really scathing) it has to be sustainable. I often describe myself as a fussitarian, because I hold the principles of local, seasonal, and sustainable food dear. This is not to say that I am difficult to feed, far from it. If I am a guest, I will eat whatever is put in front of me, but when I have a choice, I like to choose wild game, freshwater fish (not farmed), or organic meat. This is because welfare and environmental concerns are important to me. If I can not get this, I will simply eat vegetarian. I mostly eat veggie food at home too.

The set menu at As had a meat or a veggie option, and they were very happy to accommodate one of us who couldn’t eat cheese. There were four courses to choose from, or you could have all four.The waiting staff were also very friendly and patient. I arrived late due to a snarl up with the trams, but this did not really phase the waiter, neither did the fact that we stayed chatting and left long after the other lunch time patrons. Service in Holland can often be abrupt, and pretty blunt, so it was a really pleasant change to be helped through our choices, and not to be snapped at.

We chose to have three courses, and forewent the starter of a red cabbage, beet and red onion salad. Instead we had the fish course, main and dessert. I think this was a great choice, since I am not at all keen on beetroot, and I object to the habit of putting raw onion into lunch time meals. Who wants to go breathing onion fumes on friends and colleagues for the rest of the day?

Crab Ravioli with Lemon Oil

Crab Ravioli with Lemon Oil

(c) A. Dawe 2012

Of course, I managed to forget my camera, but luckily there were no shortage of smart phones, so my friends were happy to help out with shots.

We started with ravioli of crab. This was a good dish, they used the white meat only, and made a stuffing with this and some very finely chopped carrots and fennel. The pasta was thin, and the sliced raw fennel on the top was a great accompaniment. It sat in a very well done bisque, that was not too overpowering  and oily, as some of them can be. It was very well-balanced, the only thing that I could not detect was the lemon oil, but it didn’t matter.

Duck Leg, Braised in Chimay & Mustard

Duck Leg, Braised in Chimay & Mustard

(c) A. Dawe 2012

The main course was just beautiful. It was an excellently braised organic duck leg, which was neither too dry or too fatty. The braise was Chimay beer and mustard, which was subtle, and really brought out an almost smoky quality in the duck. Served on white beans, leeks and delicately cooked cabbage, I could have eaten two of these. A truly excellent dish. And my friend took a great photo of it too, which is no easy task for brown food!

We were talking and enjoying the food so much that we didn’t get a photo of the dessert. Most of us had an Eccles cake served with a wedge of Lancashire cheese. It sounded odd, but actually worked well. The cheese was a very good Lancashire, which was sourced from the UK. A little surprising, considering the Dutch love of their own cheese, but actually the crumbly texture and the sourness was a good foil for the Eccles cake. I have not yet come across a similar Dutch cheese, so this was a good choice.

One friend had a slice of pecan pie, which looked a lot more like a treacle tart to me, as there were more rich, treacley breadcrumbs than pecan nuts. However, I am not American, and not all that familiar with this dessert, so it could be that this is a more normal incarnation of the dish than the one that I tried. In any case, she enjoyed it, and it was good that they were accommodating for her.

With a good atmosphere, even for a lunch time, and lovely waiting staff, we really enjoyed our meal at As, and the food sang for itself. I like the restaurant a lot, and will definitely be back.

As with all restaurants participating in restaurant week, the lunch was €22.50 for three courses, but I will be interested to see what sort of prices they have for à la carte.

At first, I thought s was an odd name for a restaurant, but it turns out that unlike most places you are not left thinking “as if” about any part of the experience!

Restaurant As
Prinses Irenestraat 19
1077 WT Amsterdam

T: 020 6440100

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Perusing the Prahran Market, Melbourne

Prahran Market Stalls

Plenty

I do love a good food market. On our recent trip to Australia, we found ourselves in the Prahran market in Melbourne. It is the oldest market in Australia, although, of course, other markets are available.

The stalls heave with fruits and vegetables. There are butchers and fishmongers, organic stalls and delis, cafés and street food. There are specialist stalls for wine, coffee, tea, chocolate, ice cream, pasta, asian products, you name it.

If it weren’t for the Big Guy’s relatively low capacity for putting up with my geekery (well, we did manage to stay here a good couple of hours, so perhaps that is a little harsh…), I could stay in a place like this all day, wandering around, sampling the produce, chatting to people, and planning meals from all the things I found.

Instead, we purchased some items for a good lunch, and some more of the lovely summer fruits that were in season. These included some small pears, the name of which I forgot to note down, but they were delicious. Really sweet, and not at all grainy, like larger pears can sometimes be.

Pacific Oysters from Prahran Markets

A Well-Earned Breakfast

We also picked up a dozen Native Oysters. I first tried oysters about ten years ago, when I shared a dozen with a boy I was trying to impress (this was about a year before I met the Big Guy). My love of oysters has lasted far longer than that particular infatuation!

I enjoy oysters from all over the globe, especially when I happen to find some on a beach forage. But Native Oysters are really the best, as they are creamier and meatier than their North Sea counterpart. I prefer them raw as opposed to grilled with a topping, like in Oysters Rockerfeller, or Kilpatrick. I just feel that this is gilding the lily, and something this good does not really need embellishment further than a squeeze of lemon, or a splash of champagne, if you want to push the boat out!

I have already mentioned the importance of checking out your seafood before you buy it. Our oceans are a precious resource, and currently, they are being exploited horribly, with no real eye to the future of fish stocks, or the fishing industry itself. Damaging catch methods are putting species at risk, as well as destroying the habitat where they live and breed, and catching fish and sea mammals that were not the intended catch, meaning that they are thrown back, often dead or dying. It is so important to make sure that you are not adding to the problem and supporting these practices by eating unsustainably harvested fish.

Luckily, like a lot of shellfish (but not all), the oysters are sustainably managed and harvested.  As are the Blue Mussels that we also picked up, along with the rest of the ingredients for this tasty little lunch:

Mussels with Pasta

Market Dinner

Recipe: Mussels Pasta

Ingredients

1 kg mussels

Glass of white wine

1 garlic clove, minced with a little salt

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

A little oil for frying

Juice and zest of one lemon

Bunch chervil, finely chopped

Bunch tarragon, leaves removed from stalks and finely chopped

Bunch parsley, finely chopped

2 serves linguine, fresh from the Pasta Shop, if you are in Melbourne

Method

Prepare the mussels. Remove the “beard”, which is the green fibrous stuff at the pointy end, it will come away if you tug it. Of course, with any shellfish, you need to be sure that you are getting them alive. If any of the shells are cracked, then discard them. I hate waste, but not even I will mess with this one, because dead mussels decay quickly, and you risk a nasty case of food poisoning. If any of the shells are open, give them a sharp tap on the counter. If they do not close,  then discard them. Give them all a good rinse, to eliminate any grit, but don’t leave them soaking in fresh water, because they may die.

Prepare the herbs, lemon, chilli and garlic. If you have dried pasta, you will need to get this going now, and cook according to packet instructions. Get it to the point where it has five minutes left to cook before you move onto the mussels.

We got fresh pasta from the Pasta Shop in the market, if you are using fresh pasta, just get the pot of salted water on a rolling boil. It is fine to cheat, and boil the water in a kettle beforehand.

Heat a little oil in a large pan, and fry the garlic and chilli in it for a couple of minutes, until the scent fills the air. Add the mussels, wine lemon juice, herbs and zest to the pan. Cover and allow to cook.

If you are using fresh pasta, then add it to the boiling water now.

When the pasta (either variety) is finished, drain, but keep some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the mussels, which should mostly all be open by now. Give it a good stir around for a minute or two on the hob. If the mixture is dry, add some of the pasta water, although I would try to avoid this if possible. The liquor in the pan is aniseedy and soupy from the herbs, and you risk diluting its delicate flavour.

Have a quick check for any mussels that have not opened. There is  some debate as to whether these are safe to eat, but I really think that the risk is not worth it. I recommend that you discard any unopened mussels.

Serve in deep bowls, making sure that you get a good ladleful of the herby juice in each bowl.

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Aussie Christmas dinner

Moreton Bay Bugs & Thai Salad

Alternative Christmas Dinner

We are in Australia. Posting may be sporadic, but I do want to do my Christmas dinner, and custard based recipes. I may well leave the acceptable way with sprouts post, that I have not really written yet, to next Christmas now!

Anyway, this year we are having Christmas by ourselves in Cairns. An Aussie Christmas has to have seafood, and should also include a barbecue somewhere in the proceedings. We were very lucky indeed, and also had access to a pool and an entire rainforest to ourselves, since no one else was about. All in all, it was a pretty brilliant day.

We were lucky enough to get hold of some Moreton Bay Bugs, which are actually a kind of slipper lobster. Most Moreton Bay Bugs are caught as by-catch from the prawn and scallop fishing industries, both of which are trawled for. Trawling is a highly destructive practice, resulting in a lot of unintended species netted (bycatch) and destruction of the sea bed. The Australian Marine Conservation Society urges you to ‘Think Twice‘ before eating them, largely as a result of the catch method involved. We found a fish market that claimed that they were sustainably caught. It is possible to scuba dive for these, as it is for scallops, but these are very difficult to find.

Moreton Bay Bugs

Green Bugs

Anyway, if you do get them, you need green (uncooked) bugs if you want to barbecue them. They cannot live long out of water, and spoil much quicker than crabs or lobster, so this may not be easy. Never reheat them, so if all you can get is cooked, just eat them cold.

In North Queensland, fresh (and ripe!) tropical fruits are sold all over the place. They are cheap and plentiful. I had been thinking that mango, papaya, chili and lime would be perfect partners for the sweetness of the bugs, which naturally leads you to Thai flavours. They typically use green papaya, and I only had ripe, but I made do with what I had.

I hope that I am not one for boasting, but the result was really good. I was very proud of our tasty little Christmas Dinner.

I have given the recipe below, but if you cannot find Moreton Bay Bugs, you could substitute with scallops, langoustines, or even lobster if you are feeling decadent! Just please check out how they are caught, and try to get sustainably caught and managed fish where you can – the ocean is an important source of food for us, and keeps a lot of communities going, but only if we look after it well. Something which is sadly not happening too much these days.Your local Marine Conservation Society can help  give you an idea of fish stocks and some sustainably managed areas (although their system is not perfect). If you don’t have this, then organisations like Greenpeace can tell you which species to avoid altogether.

If you can’t or won’t get any of these, just have the salad – it is really tasty on its own.

Recipe: Moreton Bay Bugs and Vietnamese Salad

Ingredients

Moreton Bay Bugs – 3 per person

For the salad dressing:

1 small hot chilli (eg bird’s eye)

2 cloves garlic

4 tbsp lime juice

4 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

1 tbsp soft brown sugar

1 tbsp coriander stalks

1 tbsp mint leaves

For the salad:

Mixed salad leaves

Asparagus

Cucumber

Beansprouts

Coriander leaves

Mint leaves

Papaya

Chopped, unsalted peanuts

For the noodles:

1 pack noodles

1 spring onion

chopped chilli

lime vinaigrette

Method

Make the salad dressing. Mix the lime, fish sauce and the sugar, until the sugar has dissolved. Mince the garlic using your knife, deseed the chilli (or leave them in if you like things really hot) and chop it finely. Chop the coriander stalks and mint leaves as finely as you can. Add all of these to the lime mix, and taste for balance, you may need to add a touch more lime or chilli, to your taste. Set aside for the flavours to develop.

A short period of time in the freezer should be enough to kill the bugs humanely. Slice the bugs in half, lengthways, with a sharp knife. You will then need to clean the digestive tract and the head.

Make the salad, by mixing up the salad leaves, a good bunch of coriander, a handful of mint leaves, and julienned cucumber and papaya. Wash the beansprouts well, before adding them, and blanch the asparagus, and cut the stalks into 3-4 pieces, on the angle. I would also have added grated carrot, but we managed to lose the carrots somewhere between the shop and home, so no carrots for us.  Mix together well, and set aside.

Oil the flesh of the bugs, with a squeeze of lime, and place on a hot barbecue, flesh side down for about 8 minutes. Then flip them to colour the shells. They are done when the flesh becomes opaque.

Meanwhile, make the noodles according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Thinly slice the spring onion and the chilli and add to the vinaigrette. I had a very simple lime vinaigrette left over from the previous day’s lunch, but you can make up your own with 1 part lime juice to 3 parts olive oil. Leave the chilli and the onion to macerate to take the raw edge off them. When the noodles are cooked, drain, and pour over the vinaigrette, and mix well, so that the noodles don’t stick.

When everything is cooked, dress the salad with the dressing you made earlier, and toss together well. Plate up the noodles and the salad, and sprinkle with chopped, unsalted peanuts. Serve with the warm bugs, and a cold glass of wine. Next to a pool in the tropics, by preference.

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