Well, perhaps “cultural” is a bit of an exaggeration for what was essentially a team get-together at the house of a colleague, to which each of us brought a culinary offering, in most cases something that is traditional from our land of origin.
My contribution was a steak and kidney pie, whose construction was fraught with difficulties. Lacking a normal sized oven, I took it round to my colleague’s the night before to cook, and then brought it into work on Thursday, but without the puff pastry for the lid which I was planning to add at the last moment. Unfortunately, because of the storms that hit on Thursday afternoon, I couldn’t get back home to collect as the trams to Delft weren’t running, so I had to compromise with some filo pastry that I found at a nearby evening shop.
Avocado with prawns (South Africa)
Potato pancakes (Belarus)
Raw Herring (Netherlands)
Steak and Kidney Pie (UK)
Vegetable Curry (UK)
We had a very enjoyable evening, and finished up with a walk on the beach at Scheveningen.
Since joining the choir last year, I’ve also been receiving education in the area of Belgian beer from my friends Darby, Fiona, Chris and Alex. Now only Fiona and I are left in Holland, but my education is continuing!
Ever since my first trip to a specialist beer cafe with them, I’ve heard stories of the almost mythical Westvleteren beer, brewed by the monks at the abbey of Sint Sixtus in Westvleteren, Belgium. The monks only brew enough beer each year to support the abbey, and despite the beer’s popularity, have no intention of increasing production, making the beer very hard to find.
Last night, we managed to get our hands on some at Locus Publicus, our usual Delft haunt. They have a limited supply, and are rationing it – we sampled all 3 varieties, and pretty much cleaned out the evening’s supply single-handedly. Even Ivo, an avowed Duvel drinker, had to sample it…
Growing up, I learnt from Dad that a good soup never has a recipe, only a story describing its roots and evolution. At home, soup is usually born from a Sunday roast, and evolves through the week depending on the meals that grace the table.
Here in Holland, my soups are usually a little more predictable. They are usually born from a trip to the market on Saturday where I sometimes buy a chicken for a treat. Indeed, a whole chicken is not such a simple thing to find in a Dutch supermarket and I now consider it a luxury item! After it’s been roasted and nibbled at, the chicken finds its way to the pan where it becomes my stock.
Unlike Dad’s changing array of ingredients, my soup tends to contain the following ingredients – shiitake mushrooms (with the occasional chanterelle for variety), onion, ginger, the remaining chicken, pearl barley and a little chili to give it that element of surprise. When my cupboards are well stocked then a few more exotic ingredients might be added – kaffir lime leaves or lemongrass both give a nice oriental slant.
Every year on Christmas Day Granny arrives for lunch armed with an orange flask full of mulled wine. This is her recipe:
1 bottle of red wine
1/2 pint water
1/3 rind tangerine
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup of brandy (optional).
Warm the ingredients (except the brandy) gently until it steams but don’t let it boil. Remove the tangerine peel and cloves, and then add the brandy before serving.