Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Dutch Classic

It has been raining all weekend. As most parents with small children will experience, I too am extremely prone to all kinds of colds. So when it starts raining, and the children come home with a only a tiny bit of a cold, I immediately start sneezing.

Time for some soup! I know, I should have been making chicken stock... It just is the best when you are having a cold, but this Vegetable Soup with Meatballs is sooo comforting and warming on rainy days.
It takes a while to make, but most of the time is waiting time, so can be spent with (in my case) the children.
In these rainy weekends we spent a lot of time in our big 'living kitchen', working on childrens art projects such as making a house out of cardboard boxes, painting, cutting and pasting images from magazines etcetera.

I find it comforting to hear the delicate bubbling sounds of the soup in process next to the tapping sound of the rain on the roof and the windows. Not too mention smelling the soup, which already warms me without even tasting it.
Probably it is in my genes, as my mother and also my grandmother would allways make their own broths as well. I must have passed the 'love of this soup' genes to my children, because both my children love this soup and are even eating the veggies in it!

Vegetable Soup with Meatballs
A Dutch Classic

Ingredients for 1 pan of soup:
2 marrowbones (1 with and 1 without meat),or more if you like.
1 very small tin of tomatoconcentrate
1 celery
2 big carrots
2 onions
1 leek, green parts
1 hand of parsley

Finishing the soup:
1 leek, white parts
1 spring onion
250g of mushroom
250g of minced meat
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 egg

Put on the oven-grill on highest temperature. Spread a spoon of tomatoconcentrate on the marrowbones and roast them for about 10 minutes in the oven. Put the bones in a pan and fill with cold water. Put it on the stove at a low heat. Chop the celery, 2 onions (washed, but unpeeled), the green part of the leek and 2 1/2 carrot in big chunks and roast for a few minutes in the oven as well, after which you toss them in the pan. Also add some parsely, peppercorns, and of course whatever vegetables/herbs you furthermore like to put in.

Leave it on the low heat for a few hours, preferably the whole day. Strain the soup into another pan, squeezing out as much fluids as you can from the vegetables. Throw away the vegetables from which the soup was maked, but save the meat.
If you want to save the broth for later you could reduce it now untill you only have about a quarter left, cool it and freeze it in small portions ready to use whenever you need a broth as a basis for soups or sauces.

If you are ready to make the soup, you'll go on by pulling the meat in small pieces and add it to the strained soup. Season with salt & pepper.

Finely chop an onion and the clove of garlic and put in a bowl together with the minced meat, egg, breadcrumbs salt & pepper. Make a lot of small balls from the meatmixture.
Finely chop the white of the leek, the remaing 1/2 carrot and the spring onion. Roughly chop the mushrooms.

Add mushrooms, meatballs and vermicelli to the soup and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the vegetables 2-3 more minutes.
Taste and season some more if you like. Put in bowls and dress up with a little fresh parsley if you like.

Score: 5 out of 5, but only if you take enough time to let it simmer!
Tip: Make a large pan full of the broth, reduce half of it and freeze it in small portions (icecubebags are perfect) use the other half to make the soup. You can throw in just about any vegetable you like a few minutes before serving. A mix with small pieces of cauliflower, leek and carrots is a popular choice in the Netherlands. And don't forget the meatballs, without these it wouldn't be a Dutch Classic!
Time: to make it perfect, you'll need at least one day.
Amount of work vs waiting: Low.
About 30 minutes to start it up if you roast your meat and veggies, which I would recommend. But you could also make a lazy version by just putting all ingredients in the pan, fill it up with water and be ready to let it simmer within 5 minutes.
Finishing the soup will take about 30 minutes, making the meatballs and chopping the veggies.
Ideal for: Simple family dinner, Autumn, Winter

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Vietnamese Salad

Years ago, before we had our children, we went to Vietnam. It was quite an impressive traveldestination. Straight out of our busy jobs we flew for many, many hours to arrive in an extremely busy Hanoi.
It wasn't a luxury trip, since we wanted to see and do as much as possible with a tight budget, so we stayed in a low budget hostel in the centre of town. Motorcycles racing through the streets at literally every hour, day and night.

The only thing I can remember from these first days was that I needed to get away from all of this noice and I desperately needed some fresh air and space. We decided to take the nighttrain to the northern mountains and from there went to a very small town with only a handful of tourists. In my memory this town had one hostel and a small hotel that was being expanded/renovated at the time. In preparation of the expansion they were advertising (on a printed/typed black and white A4 paper) a walking/culture trip for 3 days and 2 night where you would stay at local families in the small farmingvillages surrounding this town.

This was the best thing we ever did! We walked through the misted mountains in the morning, watched the clouds break for some sun and had more than amazing views throughout the whole trip. What a peace and quietness, just what I needed... Everywhere the people were friendly and hardworking. And they too, were an amazing sight being traditionally dressed in colourful clothes. What made the trip even more worthwhile were the homestays. The first night we were invited to sleep in the house of the chief of the village we visited.

We were asked if we wanted to join the family for dinner or if we wanted to eat separately. Of course we wanted to join them. The organizing hotel had brought a big amount of food, so that our guide would prepare a meal for us. They added the food that was being prepared for the family and on a small open wood fire in the kitchen our guide transformed the seperate ingredients into numerous wonderful small dishes which we all shared.
Our guide only spoke a little English, and our hosts didn't speak any English at all, but nontheless we had such a nice and engaging evening, with supertasty food!

Since then I am a huge fan of Vietnamese food. Vietnamese salads are delicious, they usually have a good bite and delightful freshness. One of these days I will describe some of my cookbooks in more detail, but for today I just wanted to mention my Vietnamese cookbook which has been my inspiration for this recipe. It is an interesting reading book as well as a book full of wonderful Vietnamese recipes. It is in my possession for a few years already, so I am not sure it is still available, but if you happen to stumble across this book I would definitely recommend purchasing it.

Vietnamese Salad, side dish 2p
Inspired by:
bún với rau thơm, salade van rijstvermicelli
Geheimen van de Rode Lantaarn (Secrets of the Red Lantern), pg 118
Author: Pauline Nguyen, Luke Nguyen & Mark Jensen

Ingredients for 2p:
1 small hand of unsalted peanuts
1 shallot
3 dl vegetable oil
1 spring onion
100g rice noodles
1 cucumber
1 baby romaine lettuce
1 hand of mintleaves
1 hand of cilantroleaves
50ml Nuoc nam cham (You can make it yourself, this book has a great recipe for it, but this time I just used a store bought version)

Stirfry the peanuts in a dry wok at medium heat untill they have a light shade of brown. Roughly chop them and leave them to cool.

Slice the shallot in thin rings, rinse and dry them on a paper towel. Heat about 2 dl oil in a small fryingpan or wok untill it is so hot that when you put in a piece of bread it inmediately start to brown. Fry the rings of shallot in small batches untill they are goldenbrown. Take them out with a skimmer and put on another papertowel.

Cut the spring onion in diagonal rings. Put 1dl oil and the spring onions in another pan and bake untill they are getting soft. Let it cool.

Cook the rice-noodles according to the instructions. (A few minutes in boiling water) Cool it down under running water. Let it drain out.

Julienne the cucumber. Finely slice the lettuce. Tear the mint and cilantro leaves. Mix these 4 ingredients.
Put the rice-noodles on your plate, add the lettuce mixture and the spring onions with the oil. sprinkle the nuoc nam cham over it. Dress with the fried shallots and roasted peanuts.

Score:4 out of 5
Tip: You can add some tauge. Nice side dish to any oriental spiced meat or fish, try it with Thai Styled Mussels
Amount of work vs waiting:high
Degree of difficulty:medium
Ideal for:Side dish, salad, asian food