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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Setting fire to the chicken on a bbq!

It was a lovely sunny day yesterday so I decided to get the BBQ out and cook some sardines that I had defrosted and de-scaled and gutted yesterday. I knew to place them on silver foil when on the BBQ otherwise the fish skin will burn and you get bits of fish stuck to the grill bars.

Once I had got the coals lit through piling up dried lavender cuttings and equally dried bits of pine tree gathered from the woods last year I got BBQ crazy and went and bought some chicken from my local butcher in the village. It didn't matter that there was only me. I wanted to cook meat and it was my fire! Out came the inner caveman or at least a Boy Scout memory or two. Ug me man! Ug my fire burning! The sardines would have to wait until last and I spatchcocked the chicken by taking out the back bone with some kitchen scissors.

Here are some pictures of the BBQ preparation. Previous to the flames there was lots of billowing grey smoke and a lot of fanning from me to get the flames going and the wood burnt down and the coals nice and hot.

Look at those embers! Just ready to cook some chicken. On with the grill rack and let's go get the chicken. I place the chicken on the bars and almost immediately the flames started and eventually, fearing my chicken to get incinerated, I remove the meat and added some silver foil before placing the chicken back on the BBQ.

The leg and thigh joints I'd bought separate from the whole chicken did get a bit burnt but were edible. The whole chicken was charred underneath on the bony bit but otherwise cooked well. I put the lid on the BBQ and left it to its own devices whilst I had a few beers.

The sardines proved a bit less food magazine perfect after cooking than I'd hoped for. Basically they fell to bits and I ended up picking the fish flesh off the bones and putting it into a bowl. Still undecided what to do with it. A few fishcakes maybe?


Monday, 3 July 2017

Cooking trout and singing a bit of Sondheim for fun.

Sometimes I do crave a bit of fish even I work with them all day long. The other day I cooked myself a nice whole trout in the oven and had it with some new potatoes. Really simple and enjoyable. I stuffed some sliced fresh lemon into the cleaned gut cavity and it gave the fish a delicate citrus note. The rosemary came from a big bush in my garden. I cooked it in olive oil. The trout was in the oven on gas mark 6 for around forty-five minutes. The mushrooms were pan fried in butter for a few minutes prior to me plating the meal up.

Soufie the neighbour's cat was most interested in the fish bones but I didn't let her touch them. I didn't want her choking.

On the same day as I cooked the fish I filmed myself having a go at singing 'Being Alive' from Stephen Sondheim's show Company. I did this because I like the show and when I was in Leiden recently my friend Emma and I were trying to remember the lyrics as we wandered back home through the virtually empty Dutch streets.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Eating mussels in Leiden Holland.

On my last night in Leiden (a Friday) Emma and I went to Oliviers so that we could enjoy some mussels. Emma's partner Ronald joined us later on. The branch of Oliviers in Leiden is an atmospheric place and I was looking forward to some delicious mussels especially after seeing a steaming pot of them passing our table on the way to some lucky diner. I guess they looked a bit like these in their picture below. Moules and frites cost twenty euros. My two white biers five euros a piece.

Emma and I chatted about how much I had enjoyed my time with them, Ronald arrived but wasn't hungry and Emma and I ordered some much anticipated mussels. Of course they take some to prepare and we continued to chat away.

This is me (of course) enjoying my Olivier mussels. Unfortunately this picture also shows me at the very beginning of eating the pot of mussels. Yes, you are right. If you look in the can it is only half full and Emma's was the same. They were delicious and big and plump but ONLY half a pot full. On the plus side the frites were hot and tasty. Not wanting to spoil the evening we ate them without complaint. Emma speaks fluent Dutch so I guess we did order the right size from the menu - and paid the right price!

The other day I made some at home from mussels purchased at Tesco for £3.05 with a bottle of white wine £5.00 and garlic and parsley another couple of pounds. Guess what? I got a full pot full and with a can of chopped tomatoes and some fried M&S piri piri king prawns it made a fab mussels meal with a small baguette to mop up the juices.

Moules façon Philippe,

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Meeting some Dutch Army folk and singing "I'm A Barbie Girl." car share fashion.

I met some very interesting people during my time in Holland including Arthur van der Linden, a police officer in the Dutch police. Arthur accompanied Ronald, Emma and myself in the car all the way across Holland to Brabant where Emma was engaged to sing with the Band of Liberation. Two of the travel highlights were singing "I'm a Barbie Girl" in the car and seeing the impressive image of Rotterdam looking like a mini Manhattan on the distant horizon.

The army barracks experience was fascinating and I spoke to a real life sergeant major who reminded me of Windsor Davies from the TV show 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum' but nowhere near as funny or Welsh. Although he did appear to laugh nervously when I mentioned the French Foreign Legion. He said they were 'really really tough guys'. He looked very warm all dressed up in his uniform. At one point during the bbq lunch a big bead of sweat ran down his face.

It was a day for an army veterans reunion with HRH Prince Jaime Bernardo of Bourbon-Parma, Count of Bardi, D-day Veteran Major-General Rudi Hemmes and many more old soldiers male and female. In fact it was the  reunion of the Royal Guards Regiment of Fusiliers 'Princess Irene. My friend Emma sang two short concerts during the afternoon barbecue.

Emma talking to D-day Veteran Major-General Rudi Hemmes
Not Windsor Davies. (middle)

The Band of Liberation with Emma Brown.

The image above isn't from the army barracks but gives an impression of what the band look like all together. They are all volunteers. Images below are from the event.

Then one evening in Leiden I had the honour of meeting JJ. Jan Jaap van Weering owns the Distinguished Etiquette & Protocol Consultancy and he the author of 'Distinguished' - a book teaching etiquette that emphasises refinement and courtesy as well as sociability. The book is very popular and is on its fifth edition.

J.J was invited round to Ronald's gezellig house and upon introducing ourselves he told me of his Army background and how he knows of the Nottingham Sherwood Foresters, his love of Royalty and he turned out to be a very interesting, and interested,  pleasant guy. Emma and Ronald showed me a posh homes magazine in which there was a feature about J.J and his beautiful home full of military artefacts and old pictures. We four also shared some lekker Indonesian take away food and had a gezellig time watching (and laughing at ) the semi finals of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Previous to J.J's arrival we went to the Dirk supermarket and purchased some Dutch biers and snacks including bitterballen. I was very impressed at the huge range of Dutch and Belgian biers on offer at Dirk. A whole wall of them!!!

I don't think I have mentioned this but from my top floor bedroom window on Vendelstraat, over to the left, I could see this windmill! So Dutch! The other way was looking over these other houses.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Dutch homemade soup with meatballs.

On the first night in Leiden I got invited along to an English ex-pat general knowledge quiz at an elegant and very verdant café by the Burcht van Leiden (Old fort). I have never seen so much green! Even though most of the questions were beyond my knowledge I did learn that Polyorchid means having three testicles and pictures of double dildos are perfectly normal in Holland in the pictorial - guess the object- round. And there was me thinking it was something used to get up the U bend in the loo. I was close.

Anyway, on this fine night of quizzing I got to meet the charming Yuri. Yuri is a very intelligent man and lectures in a variety of disciplines and sciences. He is also very amusing and totally un -snobbish. I liked him straightaway and was delighted when he joined Emma and myself on the Thursday to do some shopping in the Albert Heijn supermarket. It was decided that we would make a Groente Soep met Ballen - vegetable soup with meatballs. We also bought some cheeses and bread rolls to have with it. The cheeses were a Kernheim (semi soft and creamy) cheese and a Biologische Blauwe Kaas (blue cheese). I took a few pictures in the supermarket including these three below that amused me in mis-interpretation. The first one I read as 'Nazi Specials; the second as pink ass and the third - well that doesn't take much guessing.

The first was ready made ingredients for Indonesian Nasi dishes, The second the checkout where cards are allowed in payment pin kassa and the third the quite innocent Dutch for You Can. And there was me getting all offended! Ha!

And so, back at Emma's house Yuri and I got busy chopping up the celery, carrots, onions, leeks and garlic for the soup. Plus we threw in the few asparagus left from the previous steak meal. Then I got a sudden need for a couple of beers and asked Emma for directions back to Albert Heijn at 85 Hooigracht. The other main supermarkets in Leiden are Lidl, Dirk, Hoogvliet, and Aldi.

Typical of me I managed to go completely the wrong way taking a left down Middelstegracht past the Sint Anna Hofje and ended up near the Nieuwe Rijn canal (there are a fair few canals in Leiden). Then I ventured towards a white canal bridge - the Gansoordbrug - and turned right down Hooigracht  and therefore did a full circular tour all the way back parallel to the way I'd already walked. Eventually, after about twenty minutes walk I was back at the Albert Heijn supermarket and purchased two Dutch beers. I was in beer heaven as there are a phenomenal amount to choose from.

I was wearing an African design summer shirt and whilst in the  queue a big tall black guy kept telling me how nice my shirt was. He looked most put out when I said that I wasn't around to buy a similar shirt from his market stall on Saturday. I don't think he believed I was going home. He gave me a most serious look up and down.

By the time I got back the soup was pretty much ready and very much enjoyed by us three.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Buying sirloin steaks from a Dutch butcher.

Wednesday in Leiden found Emma and myself heading off towards a rather cultured looking housing estate via engrossing chats with random people she knew along the way including her medical practitioner who has been helping her shoulder heal. He just happened to be in his garden as we passed by!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my Dutch holiday was catching up with Emma's news and experiencing the Dutch way of life first hand. After a fairly lengthy walk we ended up - via a - let's check out the puppies - pet shop - at Keurslagerij - Ed Nozeman's butchers shop ( a rather upper class affair) on Hoffstraat number 9. I rustled up my minimal Dutch language and cautiously asked for two entrecote (sirloin) steaks.

"Ik wil graag drie entrecote steaks alstublieft." said I. It seemed to work and the butcher spoke back to me in Dutch. I could only assume that he was asking how thick I wanted them so I indicated a certain thickness with my fingers. This got a thumbs up sign. They cost  21.90 Euros. According to the receipt I was served by Lisane. 'U bent geholfen door Lisane.' It was interesting for me to notice that the butcher wasn't wearing whites but a smart blue-grey tunic.

I posed proudly for a photo outside the shop and we returned back to her place where we cooked the steaks along with some new potatoes and asparagus purchased at the Albert Heijn supermarket.

I also paid for the steaks and kept the receipt for reference as well as picking up one of their free magazines at the doorway. It might be in Dutch but it is a good way of learning a language. There is a three page spread promoting asperges (asparagus) with ham ideas which would take me months to fully interpret but inspiring all the same.

We also made a blue cheese sauce to go with it. As I forgot to take a photo of the meal on the day (shameful) I have made a replica meal today from a sirloin steak from my local butcher and I have made a blue cheese sauce (Stilton and crème fraiche melted on butter) to knapp over the new potatoes, the steak and the Norfolk asparagus. Yummy.

Experiencing the Leiden food market by the canal on Wednesday.

Knowing that I was departing for England early on Saturday morning I was keen to re-visit the Leiden open market around the main canal basin on the Wednesday. Here is my short video of my experience. Emma, Ronald and I met up for lunch at the big fishmonger stand where I had a smoked eel cob and the others had some kibberlings (fried fish snacks with dipping sauce). Not sure why the uploading of the video has muddied some the of the faces though. That wasn't the case when I made the video. Hey ho.

Kibberlings with sauce.

My smoked eel cob.

The market was fairly busy with plenty of activity around the fish counter. Looking from a Tesco supermarket perspective I could imagine the cry of 'Temperature abuse!' going up seeing the various sorts of fish products piled high on the outdoor stand. However it was selling so quick that it mattered not that the fish potentially was out of temperature. And those salmon sides need trimming too!

Me with my super special and super talented friend Emma Brown.