13 Things to Eat in The Netherlands

This is the post where I disclose my liking for weird foods like chips with peanut sauce and mayo. And oily balls. Yes, really.

What would be the word for someone who is a bit obsessed with the Netherlands and has an affinity with all things Dutch? If my country of obsession was France I’d be a Francophile; England and I’d be an Anglophile. But Netherlandsophile just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Continue reading “13 Things to Eat in The Netherlands”

Friday Flickr – Borough Market

I’m so glad I don’t live near Borough Market. I’d spend all my money on cheese and licorice.

Last Saturday morning I arrived in London far too early for my afternoon tea at the Ritz, so to while away a few hours I went to Borough Market. I couldn’t believe I’d waited so long to pay this foodie haven a visit. Continue reading “Friday Flickr – Borough Market”

Food to Pack for the Kungsleden

The Kungsleden is a trail that begins in Abisko above the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden and finishes 440km later in Hemavan.

It is divided into five parts with the breaks in the sections falling where there is a road and access to public transport.

Although most people walk one or two sections, there are plenty who walk the whole path in one go. I’ve met people walking the whole way in as a little as two weeks (my mind boggles at this), but most take at least a month.

Even if you’re only walking one section you are going to have to think about what food to take with you. Continue reading “Food to Pack for the Kungsleden”

Tea at the Ritz

Afternoon tea at the Ritz will be another challenge ticked off my list.

One of the more sedate challenges on my 60 before 60 list is to have afternoon tea at the Ritz.

When I first lived in London I worked at a sandwich bar on a hidden alleyway near St James’s Palace. I used to get the tube to Green Park and so twice a day I would walk past the Ritz on Piccadilly. I never ventured inside. Doormen in tophats and tails would swing the doors open for expensively clad people alighting from taxis outside; if it was raining they even held huge golf umbrellas to prevent elegant hairdos from turning frizzy.

I imagined the same doormen slamming the doors shut if I ever tried to enter in my old jeans and trainers. One day, I thought, I will go there and they will hold the doors open for me and I will go inside and have afternoon tea. (I considered afternoon tea to be the poshest of the posh when it comes to food.)

Although I’ll happily do most things on my own, this is one of those things that I think will be enjoyed more if I have someone to share the experience with. And as it’s expensive I knew it could take a while before I found someone willing. Fortunately, I’ve now found that someone.

A good friend and I were at the funeral of another friend this week. She was only 45 and died suddenly. After the funeral we went for a drink in her memory and got onto a maudlin discussion of how life is short and you never know what’s round the corner. I kind of know this already which is one of the reasons I have a list in the first place, but sometimes I need reminding of it.

By the end of the drink we’d decided that part of making the most of life should involve a weekend in London and afternoon tea at the Ritz. I went home and booked it.

Because we want a weekend date and don’t want to have afternoon tea at 7.30pm in the evening (that’s just wrong), the earliest date I could get is in October. At least we’ve got plenty of time to save up for it.

And maybe it will be raining in October. Even if it’s not, I might still ask the doorman to hold an umbrella over my head.

 

 

To Stachi veggie restaurant

One of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

Was it really a week ago that I was in To Stachi eating one of the best vegetarian meals of my life? I don’t think I’ve stopped salivating over it yet.


We discovered To Stachi when wandering around the Venetian Harbour on our first morning in Chania. The friend I was travelling with remembered an organic food shop on a street set a little way back from the harbour and we went to see if it was still there. We found it, but it’s no longer a shop and instead has been converted into a small restaurant.


The place was empty as it wasn’t yet lunch time, but we went in and ordered coffee and sat with it at the tables outside the front. The owner, cook, herb-picker, vegetable grower and slow-food aficionado brought us a free piece of freshly-baked cake with our coffee and stayed outside to chat with us. 

Stelios owned the shop that was previously on the site and decided to turn it into a restaurant a year or so ago. He’s passionate about vegetarianism and food that is local, organic, traceable and slowly cooked with love. 

He explained that the name To Stachi means an ‘ear of wheat’ and told us about his family land where he grows a lot of his own produce. We’d also learnt during the week that Cretans are great at foraging, making use of all the wild herbs and greens that grow rampantly on the island.


Helen was so enamoured with the place she decided this was where she wanted to come on Friday evening to celebrate her birthday. Stelios was delighted and promised to make something very special.

On the Friday evening five of us arrived for dinner and were looked after wonderfully by Stelios and his daughter; he brought a constant stream of food to the table and took time to explain what every dish was. Unfortunately as I didn’t write everything down, I’m already struggling to remember what I ate. What I do remember was that it was all amazingly delicious. Here are photos of just a few of the dishes we were served. 

Best of all, at the end of the meal, Stelios brought out a birthday cake he’d made specially. It’s called galaktoboureko and is made from filo pastry and a thick gooey layer of semolina custard. It’s making my mouth water just thinking about it. 

galaktoboureko

The quality of the photos is poor because not only had I not taken a notepad and pen, but I’d also not taken my proper camera. I expected the food to be good, but really thought I’d be focussing more on the conversation, so I only had my mobile phone with me. Now I’m regretting that decision. 


To Stachi can be found at 5, Defkaliona Street, Chania. 
Here’s the Facebook page

Chania Market

A market I wish I’d discovered sooner.

Chania Market

I only discovered Chania market late on the Friday afternoon of my last day in Crete. It’s housed inside a large cruciform purpose-built building with an elaborately-beamed high roof. The Agora (market in Greek), as it’s known, was built between 1911 and 1913 and modelled on the market in Marseille. It was opened as part of the celebrations of the unification of Crete to Greece.

Chania Market

Chania Market

To enter involves climbing wide steps and passing through a temple-like facade. There are other entrances at the back and on each side. Inside are 70+ shops and little cafes selling great slabs of cheese, big bunches of mountain tea, multi-coloured olives, abundant meat and fish varieties, jars and jars of honey, dried fruits, yoghurt, coffee, olive oil, raki, vegetables, snails …

Chania Market
So many olives
Chania Market
Cretan cheese and honey
Chania Market
Mountain tea

As well as all the food, the Chania market also sells Cretan knives, tourist t-shirts, locally made soaps, leather bags, postcards and scarves. There was even a cat on a shelf, but I don’t that was for sale. 

Chania Market

Chania Market 

It was a shame I’d only discovered so late into my trip as I would have liked to spend more time browsing and to have tried out the food and coffee in the cafes. 

Chania Market


The Agora is open Mon to Sat 8am until 1.30 or 2pm. It’s also open on Tue, Thur and Fri evenings from 5pm to 8pm, though we were there before 5pm and everything seemed to be open.

Jammin’, jammin’ (hope you like jammin’ too)

I should be on the boat to Shetland now. Instead I’m making jam in Manchester.

I should be on the boat to Shetland now. Instead I’m making jam in Manchester.

I want to avoid driving in the heat so had intended driving up to Aberdeen yesterday evening and then catching tonight’s overnight ferry to Lerwick, but, the best laid plans and all that … I keep finding things to do here and although I’m aware that my time for travelling in Shetland and Orkney is ticking away, I’m feeling good about getting so many things sorted out at home. My life is usually completely chaotic with far too many things going at once, and so I end up with piles of papers, books, camping gear, etc, all over my house and feel completely disorganised. For once, I’m working through those piles and getting everything sorted out. I’ve even been picking all the fruit from my tiny garden (white currants, blackcurrants and gooseberries) and had a go at making jam. For the last few years I’ve tried this without success, as I always misjudge the setting point and it turns to toffee. This year I’ve bought a jam thermometer and it seems to work. Finally I have my own home-made jam.

I’ve had chance to catch up with a few friends as well. Yesterday a friend called round with a bag of goodies for lunch and we were able to sit out in the yard and enjoy a relaxing few hours round a table of salads, garlic bread and home-made lemonade (yep, even had time to make my own lemonade!). And then this morning I was able to have a nice chat on the phone with my friend who lives in Oman. She’s just arrived in the UK to spend a few weeks with her parents and if I had left on time, I wouldn’t have been able to chat with her. Unfortunately we won’t get to meet up, but I’ll be seeing her soon enough when I go to Oman in October. I’m already getting excited about that holiday and I’ve not even got started on this one yet!

Wild Food Cafe

A restaurant that doesn’t cook the food.

Over the New Year holidays I had a day in London. I was staying with friends in Kent for a few days and caught the train in on the 2nd. I had a long list of things I wanted to do, but when I researched them I found many places were still closed for the holidays and so that limited my choices somewhat.

One of the decisions I had to make was where to have lunch. I like trying out new places, but also have a lot of old favourites that I like to have the chance to get back to. The first few places I checked out were closed, so I decided to go to an old haunt, The World Food Cafe in Neal’s Yard. This was run by a couple who have travelled the world taking amazing photographs and researching recipes. They have published a couple of beautiful cookbooks combining photos and recipes and also displayed some of their photos on the walls of the cafe. The food was always great and the menu consisted of a range of dishes from around the world.

Yes, I’m talking past tense. The World Food Cafe is no longer and has been replaced by The Wild Food Cafe. It looks the same, except the photos are gone. The concept of the new establishment is to serve food that hasn’t been heated to anything above 39 degrees. Most of the food on the menu is served raw although the grains they serve with some meals have been cooked properly before being cooled down. They refer to their way of preparing and serving food as ‘sunfood’.

I’d heard of this way of eating before, but can’t say it has ever really appealed. However, I’m always up for a new experience and so was happy to give it a go.

I ordered a burger made from mushrooms and I think some kind of sprouts or seeds. It was served with salad, home-made ketchup, mustard and sweet potato wedges (these had been cooked and cooled). Instead of bread it was on a cracker made from seeds and things, all dehydrated and squished together. The cracker was really tasty. The burger was ok but I won’t list it amongst my favourites; if anything it was overpowered by the mustard and this spoilt the taste a bit.

I finished lunch with a coffee (hot and normal) and a piece of chocolate with high cocoa solids and made without cooking or heating.

So what’s my opinion overall? I quite liked it, but not enough to make it a ‘haunt’. It was interesting to try a different type of food and the staff were really friendly and happy to answer questions and explain the products. If I didn’t have so many other places that I like to go to in London, then I probably would go back, but as I have alternatives, I probably won’t.

Maultaschen

More German comfort food

 

Maultaschen (singular = maultasche) are a German type of ravioli known particularly in the Swabian region of southern Germany. They are large pasta parcels and traditionally have a meat filling. It’s now possible to buy them with a variety of fillings, including fish, mushroom and vegetable (gemuse). Each maultasche is quite large being at least 8cm long.  
My favourite maultaschen are those made by ‘Burger’. This is one of the cheaper brands and can be found in most supermarkets. However, it is also one of the tastiest brands.
 
The easiest way to prepare them is to boil them in vegetable stock and eat them with the resulting soup. They can also be fried. A popular way to serve them is to boil them first, and then slice them and fry them up with eggs. Keep stirring so the eggs scramble. Another way is to boil them and then place them in a lasagne dish. Cover them with a sauce made from single cream and tomato soup powder. Slice mozzarella over the top and bake them till the mozzarella has melted and the sauce is bubbling.
 
A popular story about the origin of maultaschen is that they were invented by monks from Maulbronn Monastery to hide the fact that they were eating meat during lent. This dish has the nickname of Herrgottsbscheißerle which roughly translates to “little ones who cheat the Lord”. Although maultaschen are readily available and enjoyed throughout the year, they are particularly seen as a traditional food during Easter week.


“Schwäbische Maultaschen” has been recognized as a regional specialty by the Gazette of the European Communities. This means that genuine Maultaschen have to be produced in Swabia, Baden-Württemberg, or the Swabian speaking areas of Bavaria.

Spaetzle

German comfort food

Spaetzle are a type of noodle commonly found in southern Germany. They can easily be bought ready made in supermarkets, in the same way we can buy ready made fresh pasta in the UK. I like them fried up with finely chopped onions and then lots of gruyere stirred into them. They’re great with some added chilli sauce.

I found the recipe below on Jamie Oliver’s website.

Swabian Spaetzle

Ingredients

500g white wheat flour
5 large eggs
1-2 tsp salt
1/4 l cold water

Spaetzle are a famous Swabian / South German (side) dish, served with all kinds of roasts and much gravy. Gratinated with cheese and served as a main dish with fried onions, they are called ‘Kässpätzle’ .

Method

Make the spaetzle dough by mixing all ingredients (flour, eggs, salt, and water) with a wooden spoon. Beat the dough until it shows blisters. Let it rest for 10 min.
Bring a big pot with water to boil and then add salt.
It’s very traditional to hand-scrape the spaetzle into the boiling water by using a cutting board and a knife or palette. But I use my Spätzlehobel, you could use a colander with rather big holes instead. Just let some tbsps of the dough drop into the boiling water.
The spaetzle are done, as soon as they begin to swim on the surface. Remove them from the boiling water and start again until all dough is used up. If you serve it as a plain side dish, you may want to fry the spaetzle gently in a bit of butter.