Peace (Don’t we just wish!) Compassion, and a bit of Chutney!

It’s madness out there and I admit to be one who finds it all too overwhelming. I have tried to have a green Christmas this year. We adults will not be exchanging gifts but instead giving each other details of our favourite charities. While I couldn’t quite persaude my children that the giving of gifts was unnecessary, I have tried not to give in too much to what Oliver James refers to as Affluenza! I have tried not to buy stuff for the sake of buying stuff. Oliver James believes that we in the western world are suffering from a consuming disease which doesn’t make us at all happy and I am with him on this. Having things doesn’t make us happy except for a brief time. Health, love, social interaction, being together, laughter, stories, tears and sharing a good meal – that’s what makes us happy, really, really!

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As for our dinner, it will be fusiony eclectic and out there – feta and herb filo parcels, a scotch quails egg in a blanket of sagey, tofu stuffing, a white cabbage & fennel coleslaw with some hopefully sustainable seafood tidbits, followed by a light pavlova dressed with gaiety – pomergranates and vanilla seed cream. Will it all go together, well who really cares – it is a mix of all of our favourite foods and everyone will help to make it a delicious and social day. To finish probably very much later in the day we will have my favourite French brie liberally sprinkled with black pepper on a black sesame rice cracker and my recently made Cranberry Chutney. Making Chutney is easy. It is just throwing together some vinegar, something sugarly (haven’t tried subsitutes as yet but working on it), fruits, onions, and spices. You can use special jam sugar with pectin added to help setting but you cook it all down, tasting for a combination of sweet sourness, adding a bit of this or that as needed. Keep your old jars and sterilize them on a tray at 130 degrees for about 5 minutes and fill them up.

Ingredients

1 cup of water

3/4 cup of sugar

1 packet of cranberries

2-3 apples, peeled, cored and diced

half a cup of cider vinegar or balsamic (or whatever you have!)

half a cup of raisins

2 large pieces of cinnamon/some star anise, some ginger or garam masala/allspice, a pinch of cloves

1 chopped onion

Combine it all and bring to the boil over a medium heatImageSimmer for approx 10 minutes stirring and tasting. You may like to add more sweet or more sour. Or more spices.  If you think it is too thick then add a little more water. When it has thickened to your liking and cooled, pour into sterilized jars and eat with cheese, cold cuts, warm cuts and absolutely anything. Of course the longer you leave it, then better it is but it won’t last long at all I’ll bet!

 

One last thing – I would like to plug a local business which sells lovely gluten free products. Kamilla sells gorgeous things – see her website http://www.kamterra.com 

She says the following: “At Kamterra Foods, it’s our mission to provide our customers with a fine selection of wheat and gluten free products from a variety of fantastic brands – many of which are organic and/or fairtrade.

Being gluten intolerant myself, I know how important it is to have a good choice of nutrient-rich, gluten-free products with which to make healthy, wholesome meals as well as delicious snacks and desserts.

All the products we stock are of the highest quality and are delivered worldwide from our premises here in The Netherlands.

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kamilla Oribabor
Founder, Kamterra Foods”

 

Below my favourite shop window in The Hague on Molenstraat – you’ll spot it, there are always loads of kids staring at it full of wonder. Enjoy and be at peace!

 

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Best of The Hague (part 2)

Best Restaurant This is tricky because I find that most restaurants are simply not consistent. For me they have one chance and if they miss it then there is no second visit. I can forgive some things – a less than professional delivery of service is something I have almost come to expect in The Netherlands, but if the service is unfriendly then it’s goodbye! I expect to see food that I don’t prepare at home, food that is fresh, beautiful and served in a glorious way, not too fussy, not too much on a plate but a dance of colour, texture and above all flavour. I expect the front of house to be knowledgable and have passion for their foods and wines but to be able to take criticism if delivered politely. So, that cuts out 99 % of the restaurants in this town! Left in a class of their own are my three top picks for a decent celebratory meal out : Han Ting on Prinsestraat no. 33 delivers a special meal with it’s own brand of Asian fusion using Wagu beef & seafood and get this – they make a gorgeous vegetarian on request as well. Basaal on the Bierkade never fails to deliver on quality and has a strong and loyal following. Mochi (Mallemolen 12 a) with it’s strong Japanese and South American influences has always left me with a desire to eat more. Honourable mention C’est Ca Prinsestraat 130 with a French feel to the menu using local produce.

Best Breakfast. We are pretty nonplussed about the breakfasts on offer in this city. Should you be thinking of starting a cafe could we suggest Eggs Benedict, porridge with fresh raspberry sauce and greek yoghurt, homemade granola and fluffy scrambled eggs, hotcakes with fruit, morining glory muffins etc. But the best we think at present is Baklust on the Veenkade – ask them to toast their lovely sourdough bread though. Omlettes there are very good and the cakes we have already mentioned.

Best Italian for LunchPastanini on the Frederik Hendriklaan. no 79 or the Frederikstraat no 62. This is simple, no nonsense Italian food, pizza, pasta, salads and good coffee. Extremely popular with the international crowd on week day lunchtimes.

Best Pasta – tricky again but Da Braccini on Regentesselaan 24 probably just has it with their homemade truffle pasta. Heard very good things about Vino & Cucina from my Italian friends but alas haven’t made it there as yet. I have a few free nights in my agenda if anyone fancies a night out….

For a quick family meal before going to a film, I have no objections to popping into Vapianos and sharing a plate of pasta or a salad. I am quite fond of their berry mascapone desserty thingie.

Best Pizza – naturally I think it is at my house on a Friday night! I am still looking for the best pizza here and it’s not at Dominos, or Laterna, or VIP as far as I am concerned. La Luna never changes and is prefectly reasonable for a quick family meal on the run (Weissenbruchstraat 79)

Best Cafe for lunchNaga Thai is my favourite followed by Pastanini on the Fred, Peppermint on the Frederickstraat if you can get a seat, Aan Tafel in Voorburg on the main street, Momiji Sushi on Rabbinjn Maarsenplein for sushi now that Dim Daily is no more!

 

Finally best place to work off all that food is Sorgvliet park – Go and buy your ticket now! Next post Cranberry chutney…

Sweet Potato Frittata, Fat Kittens, and Food dressed in pink!

Plate of sushi for school party

A plate of food and flowers

Eleanor Mills article  “But it’s Yummy, Mummy” in the Sunday Times last week got me thinking. Eleanor like myself (and most of my family & friends) is awfully keen on food. One of her early family photos shows her tucking into a box of chocs, her face a vision of blissful ecstascy, eyes closed, rosebud lips parted in anticipation. So she started a blog http://fatkittens.wordpress.com to look at how we feed our kids and our own rather mixed up attitudes to food. India Knight recently tweeted on how her seven year old and friends were concerned about being fat and wondering about going on diets! I too am keenly aware of bringing up my kids in an obesigenic society where we are all bombarded with adverts about food, about sports drinks, and about how cool we are if we drink coke, pepsi and eat hamburgers.  Supermarket food  is dressed in pink icing and sprinkles, frozen yoghurts (which may or may not have dairy products in them) are served up from conveying machines in our schools and food techies are tempting our palates with conjured up chemically-created irrestible tastes. Help, what do we do? Easy, but not simple – buy simple ingredients and cook from scratch! Cook it simply and make it look good. Don’t go to supermarkets where both you and your child will be tempted by all those cakes, bars and sweets at child eye level. Go to markets instead if at all possible. Do make cookies and cakes yourself but limit them to weekends and special days. Yours will taste better, have less sugar and be an act of love! Please call them “sometimes” foods not treats!

Jack’s recent school party food list caused me some alarm with its list of chicken (ugh) nuggets, crisps and sweets! I took no notice of the list but found myself dithering on party day. Would I do kappa make, sweet potato frittata, or boil some quail’s eggs? I just couldn’t decide so made all three. I was very pleasantly surprised to see lots of homemade food arriving with the other kids. Yes, there was a packet or two of crisps, micro-wave popcorn and some brought cakes but we put out the fresh food first and our kids went for it. Well most of them did. I particularly like the sweet potato frittata which went beautifully with Ute’s low fat kwark and curry dip!

Roast Sweet Potato and basil frittata

Makes at least 12 muffin sized frittata

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 large rosevale potato, chopped and cubed into small squares

1 sprig of rosemary to flavour oil in roasting pan

Roast the sweet potatoes and potato in olive oil with a sprig of rosemary, 1 tsp of ground cumin, freshly ground pepper and salt for 20 minutes in a pre-heated fan forced oven at 190 degrees.

In a small bowl beat 5 eggs, 160 mls of cream,  half a cup of torn basil leaves, and half a cup of grated parmesan cheese until well mixed.

Place paper cupcake cases into a muffin pan and lower oven tempreture to 160 degrees

Divide the cooked cubes of potatoes evenly into muffin pans. Pour in the egg/cream/cheese/basil mixture on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to stand for 5 minutes befor turning out. Serve with homemade chutney or simple Kwark dip below.

Ute’s Simple Kwark Dip

1 cup of low fat natural kwark mixed with half a teaspoon of curry powder to taste and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Coming up soon (hopefully after lunch – I am making roasted root veggies served with truffle pasta, blue cheese and nuts) Part 2 of The Best of The Hague – I being putting forward my picks for best Italian restaurant, best pizza, best restaurant, best gift store, best charity sites for gifts etc.  Also my recipe for cranberry relish/chutney fit for a celebration table….. Oh gosh, could it Christmas coming up? I am feeling like Ethel the Unready! You?

Eat a Rainbow and The Best of The Hague (part 1)

I was wondering if I needed to have a table at our school fair – quite often you end up speaking to those who are already “the converts”! And while that’s just lovely and honestly what could be more fun than talking food, sharing recipes and re-visiting food memories, that really wasn’t completely the idea. The idea is to inspire and spread the Eat a Rainbow word! We found out very late in the day that we had a table – 2 hours before the fair started but we packed our books, made a few quick samples (tapenade and beetroot/kwark dip, grabbed our emergency snack box staples and some of the quails eggs from the brekkie table and flew out the door. It was worth it. Worth it to chat to those who are well aware of the difficulties of bringing our kids up in an obesigenic world, aware of the food technologists who are endevouring to tempt our palates with combos of fats, sugars and salt to trigger our bliss points ( see David Kessler in the End of Overeating) but it was also great to talk to those who just wanted ideas for snack boxes &  who wanted to do their best. Best of all, it was great to talk to kids about what they know about food! Some of them know a lot and many are game to try different things. Most of them love to cook so do please encourage them to cook up a rainbow because food is medicine and pretty yummy as well! We had some rather interesting and fun chats about their favourite foods so I had to share a few of mine too!  That would be pretty well any recipe in the “Plenty” cookbook by Yottam Ottolenghi although I try not to over-indulge too much with the cheesy bits. Remembering that we started out with our last blog http://thelunchbox.blog.com by listing our snackbox and lunchbox favourites I am noting a few favourites below…

Favourite Sandwich fillings (for my kids anyway)

1. Boiled eggs mashed with milk and chives with lettuce and a thin scrapping of salted butter on dark brown wholewheat bread

2. Parma Ham with thinly sliced baby tomatoes (patted dry with a paper towel), lettuce, and a slice of cummin cheese on spelt bread from BROOD (homemade indian spiced chutney as well for me on that!)

3. Herby omlette, basil pesto spread, green lamb’s lettuce on an olive bread

4. Brie with chutney, spring onions finely sliced with crispy lettuce (and beetroots for me!)

5. Grated cheese mixed with 1 egg, spread on thinly spread marmite toast and grilled in the oven. Slice into fingers and serve with a salad of cucumber, tomatoes etc.

6. Organic mince made into mini burgers with salad on spelt buns – not to mention slow roasted tomatoe sauce with tofu mince and wholewheat spagetti with parmesan in a thermos and soups and wholewheat tortillas with coleslaw, refried beans, cheese etc. Those are some of my kid’s most favourite lunches and there are loads more variations, combinations and ideas etc.

Best of The Hague 2011 Part 1

Now for my Best of Awards 2011 part 1. For all those I mention I shall offer them a huge bunch of gorgeous organically grown summer flowers electronically of course…. and much thanks from me & my friends..

Best Market: Without a doubt it’s the Farmer’s Market (Boermarkt) Hofplaast on Wednesdays 9- 18.00 in The Hague – there is no competition.

Best Italian Deli: Italy on Piet Heinstraat for the caprino cheese, the wholewheat farina flour, bits and Italian bobs and such lovely people!

Best Indian Takeaway: Chef India on PrinsHendrikstraat – try their Tarka Dahl and chilli nan bread

Best Cheese Shop. Phew, this one is too tricky but in the end it had to go to Zuivelland, Bankastraat 44! One of the youngest cheese shop owners and how wonderful she is! Plus, the Cheesemen at the Boerenmarkt, so many cheeses, so little time, plus smoked tofu, soy products, various milk products, love that wild garlic cheese!

Best Sushi: This is very contentious: my Japanese friends think that Sushi Morikawa on Balistraat has very good sushi but I have heard both good and not so good reports from others.  One thing is for certain it is expensive and not really for fidgety kids! Oni, a pretty restaurant on Prinsestraat also has a following  & although I have had excellent morsels there, but have been let down by service and by the price of drinks! I really am not keen on the plethora of all you can stuff in Japanese sushi restaurants  which seems to be a nasty throw back from the 70’s, So, with the sad demise of Dim Daily (high rentals apparently) we are looking for a good solid sushi/noodle restaurant so more reports please on good, consistent family friendly sushi restaurants please….

Best cakes for a afternooon tea or coffee: Baklust, it’s fun, funky and service is kind. We still love it and feel comfy there!

Best quick meal on the run: Falafel from Falafel King, cheap, reasonably healthy and fill it up with good salads! Vlammingstraat 37 in the Centrum

Best Butcher: Now this is tricky for me as I don’t buy meat but I have had many votes for the butcher at the Organic Market, personal service, great meats and cold cuts! For game it is the Slagerij Matla on Bankastraat 48 (thanks Eva!) Eva also reccommends the Lidl for meats and organic veggies too!

Best Bread: have you noticed how many artisan bakers are suddenly springing up in our town. For me it’s a toss up between two. Phillipe Garlene’s patisserie on Aert van der Goestraat. They make a fab spelt bread that you finish baking at home. It is delicious. However newcomer BROOD also has a gorgeous spelt seed loaf, so good that we refer to it as spelt Cake in our house. I adore their little olive breads and the cheese and rosemary breads!! Keep me away, BROOD is a very dangerous place and you will find Audery making from scratch soups there as well! As I write the carrot and ginger is one of her most popular but she is constantly adding to her recipes.

Best Eko/organic shop: For personal service and food with integrity go to De Kruidentuin on Bankastraat, and they do great bread as well! Gaia on Aert van Goestraat also has an honourable mention and has loads of loyal customers and the large Ek0 Plaza in the centre of town has the largest range of orgnanic goods. By the way just because these goods are sold in an organic shop doesn’t mean they are good for you- check the labels for loads of hidden sugars particularly in bars targeted at kids – you will really be surprised at the (natural!) sugar content.

Best Supermarket: No award and is there more than one?Ok Lidl Eva will say. Me I like to shop in small places so I try and avoid supermarkets.

Best Wine Store: I know this is a school lunch box blog but there may be the odd parent out there who likes a glass of wine now and then! I only buy New Zealand wine online at 44degrees.nl but if in need I head to Wijnkoperij De Gouden Ton on Denneweg 81.

Best Tea and Coffee specialists: I like Simone Levelt and especially their Milano, mild, aromatic roast – see http://www.simonlevelt.nl for all their locations.

Asian Supermarket: Amazing Oriental for noodles, spices, sushi rice, rice vinegars, raw peanuts, Thai curry paste, rice paper for spring rolls etc. Grotemarktstraat below the movie complex right by the Ekoplaza

Best Cheesecake: Oh please, The Cheesecake Company http://www.cheesecakecompany.nl – there are no other contenders or pretenders. I won’t say it’s good for you but it is very, very delectable

Friendliest cafe: It’s Quirkys and not just because I am friends with the owner Christine. It is because just about every customer gives the owner a hug, and the friendliness is catchy!  Plus her coffees are the bees knees.

Alas time has run out, it’s time to cook dinner and  then do a late night interveiw with DutchBuzz, the radio people http://www.dutchbuzz.nl

Watch out for part 2, coming soon!

And our favourite mushroom lady at the market who is happy to share her huge knowledge!

Good Food Brings People Together – May your next meal be divine!

I was feeling rather foodily despondent today looking back over two years of seeking to inspire kids and adults to be mindful about what they are eating, to celebrate fresh, local, delicioius food and to share meals with friends, family and learn more all the time! I had received the class party food list. It mentioned 2 things which I hoped not to see on such a list again. Words that strike some fear and trepidation to a food-lovers heart: chicken nuggets and crisps! We started The Food Forum because of such a list some 2 years ago. We (a loose group of foodies, parents, nutritionalists and parents) were determined to help kids  learn about good food, to follow in Jamie Oliver’s footsteps by sharing our cooking skills and to have fun with beautiful ingredients and food. Observing what kids were buying at Albert Heijn for breakfast (cans of so-called Sports Drinks and large bags of crisps) and what was offered as celebratory food – the cheap of the cheapest hotdogs in white bread rolls, deep fried nasties etc. has led to a few sighs along the way. But for some reason after a visit to our local natuurwinkle (organic food market) and a chat to the very friendly Australian behind the counter, Rosy, I feel suddenly buoyed up by the past year and opportunities ahead. I also felt more optimistic after I talked to a teacher about bringing in some changes next year and reviewing the  festve party list.  So, if you will indulge me I would like to share some food photographs of the past year before I write my Best of The Hague 2011 blog. This time last year we were about to head to our other home Waiheke Island just off the coastline of New Zealand – I miss it most dreadfully but have great memories of sharing food with lovely people in glorious greenery. Here are some of the things I enjoyed in 2011… above walking the coastline on Waiheke

Beetroot dyed quails eggs for Easter

Birthday flowers picked in our Waiheke Garden, beauty for a day! As the sun goes down so they close and fade but for a brief day they are the stars of the show!

My favourite flavours of the year – lemons and pomergranates, simply divine!

Giant couscous, sometimes available at the Fair Trade stores

Spinach and pesto pancakes, discovering Ottolenghi's in London

Discovering all sorts of noodles, rice, green tea, and loving them!

Soft Spring Rolls - small soft packages of fresh ingredients to taste, adore Vietamese Food

Berry fruit at Yvonnes stand in high summer

It’s been a grand year, and I’ll be hoping for an even better one next year! Learning never ends and brings great joy, may we all be receptive to new ideas and knowledge. I was going to add in a photograph of the typical picture of the “party” food available  at most children’s party venues (chips, nuggets and processed sauces – nasty)  but I have decided instead to add in a last photograph of our 2010 festive meal shared with family and friends because that’s what good food really does, it brings people together. Next blog I absolutely promise cross my cooking knives The Best of our City. See you at the school fair tomorrow? Or at Quirkys next Tuesday film night where I’ll be making wholewheat pizzas with Christine? In the meantime I hope your next meal is delicious, healthy and shared with someone else!

Friends share a festive meal

Good Food Brings People Together

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