British beef and Belgian beer: Carbonnade flamande

As our culinary whistle stop tour of Europe pulled into Belgium, we cast our memories back to 2011 when we spent three nights in Brussels (with a day in Bruges).

70 Grand Place Brussels

On our first night there, we were lucky enough to find a fantastic little restaurant called Raphael where we sampled some traditional Belgian dishes like waterzooi and carbonnade flamande. The carbonnade was a highlight but one that was sadly not matched by our ill-chosen dinner on the ‘tourist strip’ the following night. However, Raphael’s version was so good that it was a dish that we were excited about trying to recreate. Continue reading

More meatballs: Dutch gehaktballen and stamppot

Having scraped the surface of Scandinavian cuisine, we’re now venturing south, into the region of Western Europe we’re much more familiar with. That said, Ash hasn’t actually been to The Netherlands (our next ‘stop’), although Miranda has, having visited Amsterdam in 2008 with her friend Kathy. (Technically, Denmark borders Germany, not The Netherlands, but we’ve used a little bit of artistic licence here in order to make the route work.)

Amsterdam

When looking through the photos from that trip in search of inspiration for this blog, it came as no surprise that a lot of them were of food. Indonesian food is very popular in Holland, owing to the former Dutch colonisation of Indonesia, but there are also plenty of dishes that are Dutch in their own right. However, other than the little pancakes (poffertjes) you see at carnivals and street food markets, and the ubiquitous Edam and Gouda cheeses, Dutch cuisine hasn’t really taken off outside of its home nation.

One of the most serendipitous moments from Miranda’s trip to Amsterdam was coming to the end of the moving experience of visiting Anne Frank’s house in the early evening and being faced with the task of finding somewhere to eat. A traditional Dutch restaurant, established in 1870 and offering a three course meal for €8.50 in a friendly and atmospheric setting was just the ticket, and this was where she and Kathy first discovered stamppot. This Dutch speciality is little more than peasant food (mashed potato mixed with kale), but it carries with it such good memories of the trip to Amsterdam that Miranda insisted that we had to make it for our traditional Dutch meal. Typically, it would be served with rookworst (Dutch sausage) but despite the proliferation of German and Polish sausages in our nearby shops, there was no rookworst to be found. Instead, we’ve opted for gehaktballen met jus: Dutch meatballs with gravy. Continue reading

Danish delight: salmon with warm salad, boiled potatoes and lemon butter

We have a thus-far-unfulfilled dream to dine at Noma. This restaurant in Copenhagen was ranked as the Best Restaurant in the World for three years running and has two Michelin stars: the perfect destination for food lovers like ourselves. We did have a moment of lunacy a couple of years ago when we considered the idea of flitting off to Copenhagen for the weekend for our anniversary and treating ourselves to a meal at Noma while we were there… but then we came back down to earth and I think we instead spent the day wandering around South London and then cooking a tapas feast in the evening: also appropriate, but slightly less glamorous.

As it happens, seats at Noma are even more sought after than we realised, so it’s probably a good thing we hadn’t set our hopes on that plan. As two people with full-time jobs, sitting around for countless hours hitting refresh on multiple browsers whilst simultaneously trying to phone the restaurant seems an unrealistic goal. Regardless, this is undoubtedly sufficient proof that Noma is at the head of the culinary table.

With that in mind, we were a little surprised to find ourselves stumped by our research into traditional Danish cuisine. The obvious ‘traditional’ food would be a Danish pastry, but we have enough cake in the house at the moment and didn’t really need any more at this stage. This was a sad thing because it also ruled out apple cake. A dark rye bread sounded like a good plan until we found out that the starter takes about a week to develop. There is another bread, gulerodsbrud (literally carrot bread), but the recipe for that was a bit confusing. No matter how hard we tried, we kept landing back at square one. Continue reading

Meatballs Mark II

We’re big fans of leftovers but not so much of having the same meal two nights running, so we try to mix up the way we serve things. Yesterday’s meatballs were great with mashed potato but there was so much sauce that it occurred to us that it might also work with pasta. We used up the last of our peas last night but we did have half a courgette (or zucchini, depending on where you’re reading this from) in the fridge. So with the help of our pasta maker (because fresh is best) and a griddle pan (to chargrill the thinly sliced courgette), an Italian twist on the Swedish meatballs was born.

Chargrilling courgette Continue reading

More fun than flatpack: Swedish meatballs with creamy dill sauce

A wonderful thing about being a teacher is the multiple weeks of holidays, in which one can do ridiculous things like walk two and a half miles to IKEA and endure its meandering maze of homewares in order to eventually find a jar of lingonberry sauce to serve with dinner. Lingonberries are prevalent in Scandinavia and are similar to, although smaller and juicier than, cranberries. Ash originally wasn’t convinced at the idea of serving a variation on cranberry sauce with meatballs (he is very much opposed to ‘jam with meat’ despite being quite happy to eat applesauce with pork…) but had to at least try it after IKEA’s obvious advocacy of our chosen menu.

IKEA meatballs billboard
Continue reading