Soms ontdek je ineens dat je al dagen, eigenlijk weken, alleen maar bezig bent met plannen/ organiseren/ lijstjes schrijven/ spreadsheets maken/ zorgen/ regelen/ dichttimmeren/ tellen en bezuinigen. Toegegeven, sommige van die plannen zijn bedoeld voor toekomstige leuke momenten, maar intussen vergeet je helemaal om gewoon, nu, hier, plezier te hebben.
Gelukkig heb ik ook dáárop geanticipeerd en aan het begin van dit jaar een paar extra vrije dagen ingepland. En dan bedoel ik ook echt vrije dagen - niet zo'n vrije dag waarop je denkt: 'zo nu heb ik eindelijk eens tijd om de badkamer te soppen - mijn harde schijf op te schonen - een nieuwe website te bouwen - een stapel wasgoed weg te werken. Nee, een echt vrije, glorieus onnuttige, onverantwoordelijk werkloze dag.
Zo'n dag had ik gisteren. Ik maakte wat wel eens mijn nieuwe favoriete standaardwandeling zou kunnen worden: met de trein naar Overveen, dan slingerend door de duinen naar de zee, en dan langs het strand naar station Zandvoort. Een bijna perfecte wandeling. Eerst 5 kwartier door het duinlandschap, wat altijd mooi is, in elk jaargetij en bij zon en wolken. En dan, net als je dringend behoefte krijgt aan een toilet en caffeine, bereik je de zee (een kinderlijk opgetogen moment om voor het eerst de eindeloze horizon te zien) en Parnassia. Ze hebben er ook aardige broodjes en de erwtensoep rook lekker, maar het blijft toch leuker om je meegebrachte boterhammen op een bankje in de duinen op te eten.
Dan is het nog zo'n uur lopen naar Zandvoort, maar ik deed er gisteren een stuk langer over omdat ik steeds stil bleef staan om naar de strandlopertjes te kijken. Bestaat er een lichtvoetiger wezentje?
's Avonds aten we sudderlapjes met mosterd, rode kool uit de vriezer en aardappelpuree. Op tijd naar bed, rozig, met een licht hart.
When someone announces a project, talks about it enthusiastically for a week or so, and then stops talking about it, there´s a pretty good chance that said person has abandoned said project but is too embarrassed to admit that. (From my past: learning Russian, taking up guitar lessons, attending the gym regularly... to name but a few).
I´m happy to report that the Budget Challenge does not fit into this category, and that the fact that I haven´t reported about it, is simply due to my omnipresent unavoidable laziness. Because, in fact, it´s been going very, very well.
Today I chekced the bank balance and saw we had 190 euros left until Saturday, which means I can spend 90 euros on this week´s grocery shopping (way too much, but not really, cause this will help contribute to Dennis´ birthday dinner for 17 that we´re having on Saturday) and still have 100 euros left over this month. Woohoo!
We had some uninspiring, cheap dinners the last couple of days (the best one was penne with panfried zucchini and goats cheese, pictured above). Yesterday was a lovely dinner at VDuck, the corncakes with chipotle shrimp I´d been coveting ever since Mark blogged about it here. And they sent us home with leftovers, so tonight will be a reprise of that, yes, I´m almost ashamed to say it, for free.
Other things that have been happening: I´m shopping like crazy for the birthday dinner, and today I made more than 50 Morroccon lamb pastries - which will be the appetizer on Saturday. They´re safely tucked away in the freezer, but I did bake one just to see if it was okay. It was more than okay, it was so good I burned my mouth because I could not stop eating it even though I knew it was way too hot to bite into.
Scheduled for the rest of the week: poach a mess of quinces, bake basbousa, count my tableware.
Donderdag was Dennis jarig, wat we vierden met pizza bij Renato´s, onze nieuwe Amsterdamse pizza favoriet, en daarna tot in de te kleine uurtjes bij Welling, waar we de enige gasten waren - klinkt ongezellig, maar dat was het niet, dankzij leuke barmannen en een glaasje Filliers of twee, drie....
Vandaag was er lunch met de diverse Ouders, en volgende week is er dan nog het Diner. We nemen verjaardagen heel, heel serieus in dit huishouden.
Op het menu vandaag: aardappeltortilla met basilicum, worstebroodjes, spinazie-paddestoelensalade, en ricotta muffins met cranberries.
De salade was geïnspireerd door een salade die ik af en toe op mijn werk eet. Dat spinazie en paddestoelen een geweldige combinatie zijn wist ik al, maar het idee om warme champignons door rauwe spinazie te scheppen zodat de spinazie net een beetje slinkt, heb ik te danken aan Kimberly van onze catering.
De muffins zijn gebaseeerd op dit recept, maar toch weer behoorlijk anders. De ricotta zorgt voor cake-achtige muffins met een frisse smaak. Wegens het verjaardagsthema van vandaag leukte ik ze op met een klodder mascarpone - maar ook zonder dat, waren ze heerlijk geweest.
Spinazie-paddestoel salade bijgerecht voor 6 personen
500 gram kastanjechampignons, gehalveerd of in kwarten (als ze erg groot zijn) 150 gram spinazie, gewassen 1 grote teen knoflook, gesnipperd 2 eetlepels olijfolie ca. 3 eetlepels japanse sojasaus 1/2 eetlepel wijnazijn 1 eetlepel sesamolie peper, zout
Verhit de olijfolie in een koekenpan op middelhoog vuur. Bak hierin de champignons een paar minuten. Doe de knoflook erbij, bak even mee, en blus dan af met 2 eetlepels soja saus. Nog even laten sudderen (de champignons beginnen nu hun vocht los te laten, niet te droog laten koken). Op smaak brengen met zout en peper. Doe de spinazie in een grote kom en schep de hete paddestoelen erop. Omscheppen, en laten staan tot het op kamertemperatuur gekomen is. Proeven op zout en peper, en nog een eetlepel sojasaus en de wijnazijn er doorheen scheppen. Tenslotte vlak voor het serveren een eetlepel sesamolie erover heen druppelen. - Terwijl ik dit typ, bedenk ik me dat het leuk zou zijn om de salade te garneren met geroosterd sesamzaad...
Ricotta sinaasappelmuffins met cranberries voor ca. 14 stuks 275 gram bloem 1/2 theelepel bakpoeder 1/2 theelepel baking soda 1/4 theelepel zout rasp van hele sinaasappel 150 gram suiker 115 gram zachte boter 175 gram ricotta scheutje vanille extract ca. 2 eetlepels sinaasappelsap 75 gram gedroogde cranberries
Verhit de oven voor op 180 C.
Meng de bloem, bakpoeder, baking soda en zout in een kom door elkaar (ik doe dat met een garde, omdat ik meestal te lui ben te zeven...) In een andere kom, de sinaasappelrasp in de suiker wrijven met je vingers (de beste tip die ik leerde van Dorie Greenspan - citrusrasp geeft op deze manier zo veel meer smaak af aan je baksels!). Als de suiker mooi oranje gekleurd is, met de mixer de zachte boter door de suiker mengen tot je een zacht en luchtig mengsel hebt. dan de ricotta erdoor mixen en het sinaasappelsap en vanille extract, en tenslotte het ei. Dan (met een spatel, niet meer met de mixer) de bloem luchtig door het mengsel scheppen, en als laatste de cranberries erdoor scheppen. Niet te lang roeren, dan krijg je taaie muffins. Beslag over de muffinvorm (ingevet, of bekleed met papieren vormpjes) verdelen en de muffins ca. 15-20 minuten bakken (de mijne waren na 15 minuten klaar: doe de cocktailprikker test om te zien of ze gaar zijn).
Sometime in December, I received a package in the mail.
Packages are always exciting, but I’ve learned to check my enthusiasm when I arrive home and see a thick brown envelope or a slim brown box on the dining room table. You see, nine times out of ten, the package isn’t for me but for Dennis, who is continuously ordering obscure cd’s, weird audio-related electrical appliances, and the latest developments in computer technology. The last time a package was mine, it turned out to contain a new supply of contacts. What I’m saying is, a package, a personal package, a fun package just for me, is a rare and special occasion.
This brown box came from Silver City, which made my heart jump. We spent a blessed week there in October visiting Rob and Tyler of Kumquat/Blogquat fame. Rob is an amazingly original and creative (on other occasions I’ve used the word ‘weird’, which did not go over well, but really, if you look at the list of dishes for his most recent tasting menu, isn’t weird a word that comes to mind?) cook, and I had a feeling he’d sent me something home made - so naturally I was really excited about the contents of this package.
Here’s what I found: I was puzzled. I thought it might be some kind of flavored sugar he had made himself – but what to do with it? There was no note, no explanation. The wrapper smelled faintly of cinnamon. After a day or two (I did not want to mail him straight away, for fear of looking stupid in not recognizing the stuff) I emailed him: uhm, Rob, what is this, what you sent me?
Me: No they’re not, maybe they were cookies once, but they’re cookie crumbs, now. He then sent me a picture of what the cookies looked like in their previous life, as cookies. They looked delicious and I was sad, and then I stuck the vacuum wrapped crumbs in the freezer, not really knowing what to do with them.
Yesterday my friend Maarten came over for 3 episodes of Dynasty and because I was feeding him lasagna leftovers and a bowl of tired salad, I decided we needed dessert. But I did not have anything that could be dessert. Except.. maybe… those frozen disintegrated cookies?
So I cut up a wrinkly apple and a couple of even more wrinkly plums that were lying in the fruit bowl, waiting for a purpose. Crumbs on top, drizzled with melted butter, baked for half an hour, a scoop of thick Greek yoghurt on the side – dessert bliss. The cookie crumbs made for a very soft and deliciously sandy textured topping. Maarten picked up on the aniseed in the cookie right away (he has an amazing palate), and we ate almost the whole thing, leaving just a tiny little scrap for Dennis.
Unless you are friends with Rob, who sends you cookies, which turn into crumbs while traveling from New Mexico to Amsterdam, you won’t be able to reproduce this crumble. I know I won’t – unless Rob will share his cookie recipe, that is.
Jeanette the chambermaid, and Mrs. Gunnerson the cook, indulging in a late night snack whilst discussing Blake Carrington´s methods for dealing with stress
Fallon and Jeff enjoying the rare home cooked dinner: Fallon made Boeuf Buorguignonne, they´re drinking red wine (which they keep calling ´vino´("Hey, I brought some vino", "Would you like another glass of vino?") but what´s that big white thing on the table?
Muis knows her priorities. "I don´t care which crap show you´re watching, as long as you give me a little love every now and then".
The ragú I made this weekend became a gloriously rich and decadent lasagna today. We only ate half, so the leftovers will be dinner tomorrow for me and Maarten who´s coming over for the next installment of our Dynasty marathon.
Money spent on groceries today: 4.50 euros (salad, zucchini, goats cheese). The zucchini and goats cheese were an impulse buy that will now have to be part of Wednesday dinner.
I´m typing this on my own dear laptop, at my own desk, enjoying my own view (even if the view is grey skies and drops of rain on the window - I don´t care)- it took the laptop about 6 days to receover from its hangover, and then, miraculously, he (she?) was completely fine again. Oh joy.
Other updates. Dinner on Thursday was leek and ham quiche (money spent on groceries: 5.00 euros). On Friday Dennis had leftovers, and I went to a bar and had beer for dinner (and half a pizza). Yesterday I spent 30 euros on groceries (which included a bottle of cheap every day olive oil, and 40 roses). For dinner we had chipotle marinated salmon, fried sweet potatoes and guacamole - which tasted a lot better than it looks in the picture, I´m sorry about that garish seventies color scheme. I also made a huge pot of ragú yesterday, which will be dinner for 2 nights: tossed with penne tonight, turned into lasagne tomorrow. The ragú has beef (stewing beef cut into tiny cubes, a lot of work to prep but the end result is so much better than using ground beef) pancetta and chicken livers. I can´t wait.
Money spent on groceries today: 4.00 euros - organic beef, and some bok choy.
With udon noodles, black bean sauce and chili paste from the pantry, and spring onions and coriander from the fridge, this made an excellent tv-dinner. Spicy, healthy comfort food for those of us with a slight hangover from yesterday's eetclub festivities.
The laptop is still in the recovery room, we are too scared to see if it can breathe on its own. Yet. Maybe tomorrow.
Falafel, the ur-version, made with dried broad beans instead of chickpeas. After painstakingly removing the tough skins from every single broad bean (which took me more than half an hour) I decided I should have listened to Claudia Roden, who advises to buy the dried beans 'already skinned'.... The soaked, hulled beans are pureed with parsley, coriander, coriander seed, cumin and chili powder - and a ton of garlic. The deep-fried end result was very tasty - I would say that flavor-wise, these were the best falafel I ever had - but the texture needs some tweaking. They were a bit dry, and the outer crust was a tiny bit chewy instead of nice and crisp.
Musakhan I used Paula Wolfert's recipe for this traditional Arab chicken dish. It's spiced with lots of ground sumac, which gives it a mysterious, lemony tang and a deep earthy flavor. I love any dish that combines good bread and juicy meat, and this recipe has you baking the chicken on a bed of pieces of flatbread. The juices of the chicken and stewed onions permeate the bread, which becomes part soggy / part crispy, and the whole dish (though simple and easy to make) is unusual, delicious and interesting.
Basbousa We had finished the entire tin of Basbousa my friend had brought us from Abu Dhabi, so I decided it was time to make my own. Instead of soaking the cake with a lemon sugar syrup as the recipe (from Claudia Roden's Book of Middle Eastern Food) states, I used the reduced poaching liquid from my quinces, with a good glug of quince wodka for an extra quince (and alcohol) kick. Served with poached quinces and a good dollop of mascarpone, this was a truly gorgeous dessert - one I can see myself making for a big dinner party in the near future.
The dish without a beautiful name Roasted aubergine with a minted joghurt dressing, sprinkled with smoked paprika.
Money spent on groceries yesterday: about 40 euros, but effectively nothing, because I was shopping for another eetclub installment (the best club in the world: I shop, cook and clean up, and my guests pay).
Yesterdays dinner was composed of leftovers, after D. and I took the wine soaked laptop apart. I'm not touching it for a couple of days.. hoping that letting some air flow through it will help....
We had leek and yellow split pea soup, a halloumi spring onion frittata, and bulgur salad with mint and parsley.
The soup was amazing, mostly because I let it burn ever so slightly, which gave it a lovely deep caramelized flavor. So here's a recipe that tells you to actually burn your soup. Trust me. The budget element: I had a large bunch of gorgeously fresh parsley that was too lage to fit into the vegetable drawer. As I cut off the stalks, thinking I might as well throw them away, I had the idea to use them in the soup. Because it cooks for about an hour, the tough stalks become tender (but still retain some bite) and give a lovely green and fresh flavor to this earthy soup.
Tonight: Falafel, Musakhan, Basbousa.
Sounds like a fairytale, right?
Leek and yellow split pea soup
1 fat leek, the white and tender green part, cleaned and sliced The stalks from a large, very fresh bunch of parsley, finely chopped 1 large clove of garlic a knob of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil a cup of yellow split peas chicken or vegetable stock, about 500 ml. a large pinch each of dried thyme, ground cumin and red pepper flakes
Heat the butter and oil in pot. Add leeks and garlic and sweat them until soft but not brown. Add the peas, thyme, cumin and pepper flakes and half a cup of water. Cook until the peas have absorbed the water and the resultung mush is starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Stir to dislodge the brown crusty bits at the bottom of the pan and add the stock. Simmer slowly for 45 minutes, adding more water if necessary to make a thick and creamy but not too stodgy soup. taste for salt and pepper.
I have a good friend whose favorite thing to say, after taking the first sip of a glass of wine/beer/jenever, is: "Aaaaahhhhh... a drink always makes you feel better."
And I tend to agree with him, most of the time, except when you spill half of your much needed drink on the keyboard of of your laptop, which then proceeds to make all sorts of very disturbing noises. It did start up again, but with all the keys confused, and many functions not functioning at all.
(All this right before a very nice dinner of tomato bulgur pilaf, pan fried haloumi, and a roasted green bean/olive/mint salad).
So I called the laptop doctor this morning who told me to unplug the laptop, take out the battery, and not do anything with it for a week.
My knees started shaking and I almost cried. Well, no, I actually cried.
I'm typing this on another computer, where I don't have the things I need to work, to blog, to write, to work. I can check my email and look up the occasional tidbit of info, but other than that, I think there will be computer silence this week.
And after that, who knows what the diagnosis will be. Let's try not to think about that now.
So, there won't be much blogging going on for a while. I'll document my meals and grocery spending, and hopefully, in about a week, will have a plethora of catching up posts for you.
I guess this means I'll have to go and clean the bathroom.. no excuses now, right?
A little update: Money spent on groceries yesterday: zero. So what did we eat? As luck would have it, a belated, unexpected Christmas gift from relatives landed in my purse, and we decided to spend it immediately. So we had a reckless night on the town which involved, beers, jenevers and a really good dinner at Levant. (Possibly more about that later).
I guess you could call that kind of behavior penny-wise, pound-foolish. Yesterday, we preferred to call it seizing the moment.
Money spent on groceries today: 22.50 euros, which includes a bottle of wine to take to our friends house tonight. Because yes, we were lucky enough to get another dinner invitation this weekend. But tomorrow, there will be some cooking - and a cheap dinner - I promise.
Dinner yesterday was the most reliable Dutch winter dish: stamppot. Stamppot is a mixture of mashed potatoes and an (about) equal amount of cooked or raw vegetables. The classics are raw endive, cooked kale and sauerkraut. It's filling comfort food at its best, usually served with winter meats like smoked pork, bacon and smoked sausage. See here, here and here for more stamppot recipes.
The nice thing about stamppot is that basically anything goes. One of my favorites is stamppot of Brussels sprouts, and I made a really great one with sweet potatoes and cabbage a little while ago. Yesterday it was raw, thinly sliced Belgian endive that went into the mash, together with a couple of chopped up hardboiled eggs, and a tablespoon of mustard. The stamppot was served with shallots fried in butter, and a smoked sausage that I had in the freezer.
No pics, stamppot isn't the most photogenic dich anyway (and this one was particularly boring, with nothing but beige and brown and pink on the plate). But it was a great dinner, and tonight Dennis will eat the leftovers while I have dinner at a friend's house, so this will be another zero euro shopping day. Yay!
What is pictured, is the gorgeous baklava Nouf brought us from Abu Dhabi. This has been dessert for almost 2 weeks now.. just a little piece with a cup of tea.. okay maybe another piece, oh what the heck they're so tiny I'll have a third. There are 2 layers in this box.. so we can keep eating for a couple more days. There were also delicious chocolate covered dates, and a tin of basbousa (I hope I spelled that right) which was my favorite: a dense yet crumbly, not overly sweet, nutty flavored delightfully knobbly-textured semolina cake.
It's real easy living on the cheap when you have friends who bring you kilos of exotic sweets.
Money spent on groceries today: 4.01 euros, at Lidl (a huge box of ridiculously cheap granola - we´ll have to wait and see if it´s any good!), a bag of Belgian endive, mineral water, milk and a tin of tomatoes. Dinner tonight was the pork and barley chili I made on Sunday, with guacamole, grated cumin cheese (great way to use up that little end of cheese that´s been lying around in the fridge) and, tada, homemade corn tortillas!
I had a lot of masa left over from my tamale experiments, so I decided to try my hand at making corn tortillas. The recipe, if you could call it that, is extremely simple: just mix warm water into the masa until you have a smooth but not too sticky dough. Roll the dough into balls. Now you have to press them into flat rounds before frying them - there are special tortilla presses for this, but I just put the ball of dough between two layers of heavy plastic (from a ziploc bag), placed a skillet on top, and leaned on it will all my weight.
Now, for the frying. It took me a couple of pale, sickly looking tortillas before I realized that the pan in which you are frying these, should be totally, absolutely, incredibly HOT. Don´t try this with a regular flimsy non-stick skillet - you really need a heavy cast iron pan for this, or another type of frying pan that you can heat till it´s almost about to melt. Technically I don´t even think we can call this frying, since there is no fat involved. What you do is slide the dough disk into the hot (did I mention the pan needs to be really, really hot?), dry pan, cook for half a minute, flip it over, and cook some more until you have a lightly brown-speckled, soft and pliable tortilla. Keep them warm under a cloth (and keep them wrapped in the cloth even when you sit down to dinner: when they cool, they become dry and brittle very fast).
The chili was delicious (and how I love barley!) but today´s real joy came from making my own tortillas. Hurrah.
Money spent on groceries today: Tiger prawns - 3.50 Vegetables - 4.30 Today´s major mistake: buying a 1.00 bag of sesame seeds, then coming home and finding a nice stash of sesame seeds in the spice drawer. Guess I did not clean that one out as well as I thought.
The dinner would have been ok without the prawns, but what can I say, I was really, really in the mood for prawns. Before I can become a true budget queen I must learn to control my cravings..
Kimchi pancake with prawns and spring onions The pancake is incredibly simple: a small can of kimchi, chopped up and mixed into a pancake batter made with flour, water and eggs. The slightly sour, spicy-sweet flavor of the kimchi combines really well with the fluffy pancake batter. There are a couple of wedges left over, which will make great lunch tomorrow.
Cold udon noodle salad with steamed eggplant, cucumber and sesame dressing
Steaming chunks of eggplant is a nice way of getting them to that soft and luscious state that is so typical of well cooked eggplant, without having to use a lot of oil. The sauce is based on the sauce for ´Strange flavor chicken´ in Fuchsia Dunlop´s Land of Plenty. It´s a highly addictive dressing that´s great on cold noodles (although I sometimes use it for warm noodle dishes as well), salads, you could even try it on plain grilled or steamed meat or fish.
2 tablespoons tahini 1/2 tablespoon peanutbutter 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil 1 teaspoon roasted, ground Szechuan peppercorns 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (or more if you want it really tangy - I often use up to 2 tablespoons) 1 tablespoon light soy sauce 1 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon of chili paste, chili oil, or even just some chili flakes (optional, I didn´t use the chili today because the kimchi is spicy, and I wanted one spicy and one non-spicy dish).
Mix everything together. It will probably ´seize´ into a stiff mass: instead of adding more oil or vinegar to make it smooth and runny enough to be a dressing, I usually add a tablespoon of water. Mix that in till you have the desired consistency. Taste, and add whatever you feel is necessary: a bit more sesame oil, some vinegar, soy sauce or sugar.
You would think that in that huge pile of pantry clutter, there would have at least been on little bag of dried beans, wouldn´t you? But no. Buckwheat, couscous, barley, spelt, bulgur, split peas and lentils, and no less than 6 types of rice, but no beans. The only incarnation of beans that I could find in the house was a can of rather mushy white beans. Why I ever bought those, I don´t have a clue. But I have to eat them, so why not today?
I had about a pound of organic braising pork, which I cut it up into very small cubes. Half of it was browned with an onion, lots of garlic and a diced large carrot, then simmered with about a third of a can of chopped tomatoes, a cup of white wine, and lots of fresh sage. When the meat was tender I added more sage, some sliced spring onions, and the white beans from the can. The other half pound of pork was browned with onion, carrots and garlic too, but then simmered with the rest of the tomatoes, oregano, all spice, chile powder and cumin. Then I threw in about a cup of barley and a cup of water, and simmered again, for half an hour or so untill the barley was tender. This pork barley chili concoction will be dinner some time during week. The pork & white bean dish was dinner tonight.
In the interest of frugality, I did a thing I´m very proud of. We usually throw away a pretty big chunk of bread on Sunday night - it´s been around since Friday, we didn´t eat it all, on Monday it will be too old to eat. Today I processed the bread into crumbs (even saving the crusts to feed to the rat), used half of those crumbs, mixed with parsley and lemon zest, to top my pork and bean casserole, and froze the other half.
Now if only I can find a use for those frozen breadcrumbs before they get freezer burn...
The pork & beans were delicious, and because the canned beans were kind of soft and bland, the crunchy, savory breadcrumb topping was a very welcome addition. We had some panfried zucchini, tossed with the remainder of Friday´s buch of rocket, as a side dish. The good news is that there´s a tiny bit of pork left over.. which will make a great lunch tomorrow, when I'm working from home.