Category Archives: Recipes

This August tastes like October (and pumpkin soup)

In one of my old posts I called autumn my favourite season, and October my favourite autumn month. But I don’t recall asking for August to become October, and this August has been very much October-like in my corner of Europe. I’m sure this has its bright sides somewhere, but they are damned hard to see behind the clouds. One slightly less dark side I could find is that pumpkin soup goes really well with this weather.

Red kuri squash (image by Schwäbin http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Schw%C3%A4bin)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Red kuri squash pumpkin (this variety you can eat with skin and all)
  • 2 small potatoes (or sweet potatoes if you want everything orange)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp vegetable bouillon

Cut the pumpkin in half and spoon out the seeds. Make sure you take all of them out, because I’ve missed a couple of seeds once and had to spit them out piece by piece afterwards (there’s a blender involved later in the recipe). Chop the onion and the carrots and fry them in some oil in a large soup pan. Chop the pumpkin and add it to the pan. Pour 1 litre of boiling water (or more, at least enough to cover the vegetables). Add the skinned and cubed potatoes, the vegetable bouillon and the thyme. Cook until the pumpkin in soft. Add the orange juice and using a hand blender, mix the soup into a smooth mass. Be very careful here – the soup has a very high heat content and flying drops can be dangerous (my wife still has marks on her arm from a soup accident years ago). If you want to make the soup look fancy, decorate the bowls with a spoon of crème fraîche or yoghurt, and a parsley leaf.

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Go easy on the potatoes, otherwise you’ll end up eating very orange potato puree, like I did the last time.

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The taste of Dutch summer

They say that in India, there’s a festival celebrated somewhere in the country every day of the year. Supposedly, its a testimony to the richness of the Indian culture. Some Indians, though, say its a testimony to the unwillingness of the Indians to work and their inventiveness in coming up with excuses to avoid working. As I am not concerned with India, but with Europe, I will leave this matter to the Indians. All I can tell you is that if you scan the calendars of the European countries you’ll surely find a festival every day somewhere on the old continent.

With over 50 countries and countless regions dotting Europe, the variety of festivals and celebrations is hardly a surprise. Some of these festivals, such as the Carnival in Venice or the running of the bulls in Pamplona, are well-known and are a regular feature on bucket lists. Others are more local, and maintain the local charm, swarmed by locals rather than the bucket-list waiving crowds. Like the Vlaggetjesdag, or Flags Day, in Scheveningen.

Originally, Vlaggetjesdag was the day when the herring fishing fleet would sail out to sea, on the Saturday before Pentecost. Nowadays, it is the start of the herring eating rather than herring fishing season that is being celebrated, and the festival has shifted to early June (8th of June this year). While not as famous as, for example, La Tomatina, Vlaggetjesdag events in Scheveningen, the Hague’s harbour, attract huge crowds. The first barrel of herring is auctioned, and the proceedings, running in tens of thousands of Euro, are donated to charity.

The taste of Dutch summer is new herring

The taste of Dutch summer is new herring

The question is – what do you do with herring? The Dutch usually treat it as a snack, eating it with or without onions, plain or in a white bread bun, and with a pickle in Amsterdam. But what if you want to make a meal out of it? As it requires extra no cooking, there’s no point in doing anything with the herring, but what does raw herring go with? Well, since new herring is available in the summer, how about a fresh quinoa salad?

Ingredients (for 4 persons):

  • 8 herrings
  • 300 g quinoa
  • 2 raw beetroots (300 g)
  • 150 g feta cheese
  • Fresh mint and parsley
  • Lemon julie
  • Olive oil

Cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the package. Skin and rasp the beetroots. Crumble the feta cheese. Chop the mint and parsley leaves. Mix everything together and spice with lemon juice, olive oil and some black pepper and serve with 2 herrings per person. Enjoy your very summery salad (with or without the herring).

Beetroot and quinoa salad - perfect for the hot summer evenings

Beetroot and quinoa salad – perfect for the hot summer evenings

 

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Is Turkey just another small European country?

Is Turkey a part of Europe? While this question seems a recent, EU-related issue, it has actually been hotly debated across the continent for ages. Some count the Kemalist reforms of the 1920’s as the birth of the Turkey-Europe issue, others – the siege of Vienna of 1523 or go back as far as the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Some even trace the origins of this issue to the split of the Roman Empire to East and West in the 4th to 6th centuries. The exact answer is that of course Turkey is part of Europe – the UEFA says so as Turkey is a member state. There is of course the question whether Turkey can be counted as a “small country”, but I’ve addressed that in a previous post. And whether Turkey is a part of Europe – I for my part am an engineer and I choose the pragmatic approach. My answer is – who cares, as long as Turkish food continues to be a part of the European menu.

Here’s one of my favourite Turkish recipes – Yumurtali Ispanak (spinach with eggs).

Ingredients (for 2 persons):

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 kg of fresh spinach
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • Black pepper

Fry the chopped onion in olive oil until it softens. Add the garlic and fry lightly. Mix the tomato paste in and fry for a couple of minutes while stirring (it removes the sourness). Add the spinach and mix it in a bit. The spinach wilts a lot, so don’t hesitate when you buy a big green bunch of it. When the spinach has wilted a bit, make 4 “pits” in the spinach and break the eggs into them. Cover and simmer until the eggs are cooked. Add black pepper and serve with bulghur or couscous. Afiyet olsun!

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