Friday, February 29, 2008

The Week Away From The Kitchen

We've decided that London is the way to go for us; it sadly hasn't worked out here. Of course the day I apply for the visa is when I get a callback about not one but two jobs, although not in my line of work and in Almere which is quite far. Dani also wants to do it, and we have interviews for the visa in two weeks.

I am very excited about London; while part of me is hesitatant to going through the same experience, it should be a more work-friendly city for us. And we can only try. I've already seen so many jobs that I want to apply for. I have always loved London (not just for Pret sandwiches...although it's a significant reason) and I'm going to work so hard to make this happen.

We're moving tomorrow since we found a cheaper place a few weeks ago 10 minutes down the road, sharing with a laidback French guy. It is a nice place, we'll have our own bedrooms and with stairs to a secret rooftop, not that it's that balmy that we'll be hanging out there too long.

Tomorrow is Dani's 30th so I have a surprise planned, can't wait! And on Sunday we are going to Rotterdam, which we can't wait x 2. We've decided to go somewhere everywhere weekend while we're still here (including catching up with the girls here), and also actually get on a bike. It would be The Stupidest Thing Ever to come to live in Holland not ride a bike at least once.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Week In Food

We are moving tomorrow so I have been trying to use up the pantry. On Monday I celebrated Dani's first day at work with scallops. They had been my number one lust have item since we got here and I decided to snap up four giant shelled scallops for 10E - they were seriously huge. I pan fried them and served them on top celeriac and potato soup.

We've had Kath's peanut and tomato lamb curry and Donna Hay's ricotta pies. Make your favourite bolognaise sauce (I added peas and grated carrot, onion and celeriac) then top with a tub of ricotta mixed with one egg and mozzarella. Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes. It makes a really delicious crust.

I made chocolate baked donuts which weren't as good as the plain cinnamon sugar ones I made for the Masterchef Challenge; they were more like chocolate dinner rolls. Not having proper kitchen utensils and having to smear the melted butter on with my fingers instead of with a brush was more 9 1/2 Weeks than afternoon in the kitchen.

Vietnamese lemongrass chicken, which I make so often now and have the caramel downpat.

Monday, February 25, 2008


A kitchen hand to help a private chef for a home in Sardinia for 5 months.

A lifestyle writer in Dubai for £80,000 tax-free.

On the way, finding this: I said thanks to a ticket machine. I was miles away, and when the ticket popped out, I involuntarily said thanks. Has anyone else had any experience of this? Perhaps with snack dispensers/coffee machines/photocopy card crediters? Do get in touch.

And now, I just applied for a job in...Slough.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


In our quest to find the best frites in the country, today we went to what many have said are the best, Vlaamse Friteshuis. We'd already been deceived by a frites shop on the Damrak (giveaway?) that calls itself the Best In Amsterdam, but they were rubbish: thick, unseasoned, gluggy sauce.

A tiny hole in the wall in the middle of Amsterdam, the queues gave it away and it was easy to decide between kleine and middel sizes, although not so easy are all the saus choices - what are hannibal, american, samurai? - but Belgian mayonnaise is closest to S&W mayonnaise so that's our favourite. It's a well-oiled (sorry) operation: man takes order and money, girl to his side scoops out frites and dollops on the sauce, two or three guys behind them continuously fry vats of frites.

They were good, if under-salted, but fortunately for us, our local frites place near the Grotemarkt in Haarlem is the best. Consistently fresh, delicious, no oily taste, seasoned just right.

After a decent coffee I left Dani and decided to go to the library that we walked past the other day. Wow. No no, WOW. I have never seen anything like it, and when they get it right here, they get. it. right.

A beautiful brand-new building, as I walked in I saw a room filled with kids and parents reading, drawing, having fun. Architecturally-gorgeous and light-filled, a piano player greets you, there's a cafe and you can sit in comfy chairs and lounges with a coffee and browse hundreds of magazines, use the internet for free, people chat and kids play, there's no stuffiness yet it's not distracting. The levels with books (one with new CDs and DVDs) have floor-to-ceiling windows facing all parts of Amsterdam, cosy armchairs with built-in desks, shared tables with plug-ins for laptops, private areas for study.

Years ago I became jaded with magazines. I'd get fooled by covers only to be disappointed by poor writing, uninspiring photo shoots, the repetitiveness. So when in Spain and I saw Charlotte Gainsbourg on the cover of Paris Vogue, I hesitated, but walked on by. Today at the bibliothek, I picked it up and ended up pouring over it, not moving, for an hour. Charlotte's pages of sharing words, pictures, felt open, intimate, an absolute treat. I love her notes on a photo of Yvan, something like "I wish he looked at me like he is looking in this photo, except he is looking at the photographer". And the article on her and Jean Nouvel's plans to turn 5, rue de Verneuil into a museum. Just the other day I was thinking if they do open Serge's home as a museum, I wouldn't like to go. I felt it would be a tacky invasion of his private space, a breach of intimacy. But reading their words made me think I would like to go. The photos of the apartment, by Mario Sorrenti, stunned me with how beautiful it is.

And now, just found that Paris is hosting the exposition Gainsbourg 2008 from October this year. I'm meant to be in Europe!

Friday, February 22, 2008


We went to the Magnum 60 Years exhibition in Amsterdam yesterday and I have to say, it was very disappointing. As a Magnum addict, I was really looking forward to this retrospective. But it was more a timeline of events in the Magnum history, arranged year-by-year along two walls, with limited photos, along with book covers, mostly without captions, placed way too high so we had sore necks by the end of it. A lot of text which didn't always correspond to the visuals. The light was terrible and cast shadows over the photos. Probably worst was the exhibition next door, some modern 'art' installation on noise, blasting said noise (screeching opera, metallic whining) into this room and completely distracting. And a steep 9E.

Perhaps we should've gone next door to the free Scientology-sponsored travelling exhibition, Psychiatry: An Industry Of Death. These people are truly scary.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dani's Jamie Oliver Meatballs

So delicious! Meaty, herby meatballs + melted mozzarella + buttered spaghetti = full and happy belly. This is one of the best meatball recipes I've had. Recipe here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nobu's Miso Cod

Andrew and I went to Nobu while in New York in 2003. Actually, it was Nobu Next Door, since back then the cult restaurant was booked out for months, and this neighbour took no reservations. Just as we were across the road, my heel snapped right off. So we had to cab it back home, get changed, and cab it back. It was full so we had a drink around the corner which involved a very funny case of misunderstanding, then dinner. Back then, the Aussie dollar was a useless 53 cents, and we feared how much the dinner would cost us (especially after one of the worst dining experiences ever at Cafe Boulud). I had the famous miso cod, Andrew a plate of the freshest sashimi. My cod came out on the plate as is, just a fillet of cod, with no vegetables, or decoration - I was cynical. But it was incredible. Tender, sweet, salty cod with nothing to distract you from this delicious new food.

It had always been in the back of my mind to make it, but I felt stocking up on all these Japanese ingredients - sake, mirin, miso - was superfluous. Now I can't imagine a kitchen without them. The fish marinates for 2 days, plus or minus, and 'toughens' up slightly soaking up the flavours for so long. A quick roast under a hot grill, then baking, leaves it flakey and golden. I served it with a little round of brown rice noodles and a dot of reserved marinade. It's a dish to serve someone you love, and that includes a double portion for yourself it's that good. Find the recipe here.

Worst photo ever. The fish was so tender and flakey that it fell apart but it was a rare case of not caring...
I just wanted to eat!

A Request

I just came back from what I was told was a job interview but was actually a cattle call for the recruitment agency. The job I applied for - which I really, really want - is handled by another office and this one didn't know anything about it, but hopefully will pass on how my interview went to them tomorrow. This is where I ask you to send me all your good vibes, any you can spare.

Second Only To Castro Standing Down

A lovely little article on the semi colon from the NY Times; it's about time I read Eats, Shoots and Leaves...

Monday, February 18, 2008


The light has been incredible tonight, pink and green and yellow all in one, and then suddenly, the sky was a velvet grey and the moon was beaming a bright light into our loungeroom. The craters are so detailed, it looks like it's just there.


From the backyard, 6.40pm

I call them witches' hair.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

In Pictures

The Happy Pig

Ballet in the windows of De Bijenkorf
(mannequin to the left, ballerina to the right)

View from Sint Antoniebreestraat with NEMO in the distance

Broodje met kip sate = slow cooked chicken satay goodness

Lots 'o people at Albert Cuyp

Cheap herbs

Three types of knoflook (garlic)

Potatoes and more potatoes



Puccini Bomboni


Saturday, February 16, 2008


There is a favourite scene in one of my favourite movies, The Spanish Apartment, when Romain Duris arrives in Barcelona, walking through the train station wide-eyed and talks about how all the names, everything, is foreign to him but he knows in a year's time it will all be familiar, be his. I felt a little like that today, spending the day in Amsterdam, a little more familiar with this city, one of it's people.

To say it was a beautiful day is an understatement. It was gorgeous. It was almost-bitterly freezing cold, 4C and warranted a coffee stop halfway through to defrost my gloved-yet-numb hands, but the blue sky and sunny air was bliss. Everyone was out, and I mean everyone. The streets were hard to navigate, thick with accents - French, Russian, Liverpudlian lads on sex-and-smoke weekends.

I said goodbye to Dani in Chinatown and took my time in my new favourite shop, Toko Dun Yong, an emporium with every Asian grocery you could ever want, with really good prices. Fresh blocks of tofu, white miso, pale stalks of lemongrass. Isn't lemongrass the prettiest thing?

Nearby the Nieuwmarkt stalls had organic fruit, vegies, cheese and breads, and then I discovered what could be my new favourite bite in Amsterdam. Tokos are Indonesian eateries with choices of curries, noodles and snacks, usually to take away, and I tried a broodje met kip sate (bread roll with chicken sate) at Toko Joyce just off Nieuwmarkt square. A crunchy bread roll filled with succulent chicken satay for only 2.80E. Yum.

I walked over to Waterlooplein, stopping to admire the lovely view at Sint Antoniesbreestraat, and decided to save a stroll through the giant flea market for Dani as there were too many crazy nicknacks to admire alone. A coffee break to warm up, then through the Dam over to the Singel which was lined with busy terraces. I found my destination easily. Puccini Bomboni is allegedly one of the top ten chocolate shops in the world and well, I had to decide for myself. Unlike some chocolate shops, there was no snobbiness and the girls that worked there were lovely. The counter was lined with their famously-interesting flavours of bonbons - I chose vanilla and poppyseed, lemongrass and honey for myself and lemongrass, tea and cranberry for Dani, as well as a block of Valrhona and chocolate drops for cooking. I saved them for when I got home, so, are they that good?

Yes. The chocolate was pure, smooth, not richly sweet. Lemongrass had a fresh citrus zing and honey, my favourite, was just that mixed in with bittersweet chocolate with tiny chocolate curls. It is preservative-free so I might just have to stop here the day I leave and pick you all up some.

From here I took the tram down to the Albert Cuyp markets in De Pijp and boy, was it jam-packed! It was almost too hard to walk down with some stalls too crowded to see what was on sale. But amongst the usual crap on sale in markets the world over, the produce stands are worth the pushing and shoving. Bargain vegies, corn fed chicken, and I really wanted some fish - cod especially, but I didn't know the Dutch for cod, so I tried my luck asking and was hacked off a lovely piece of kabeljauw.

Heavy with shopping, I headed home. A really lovely day.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Happiness Is A Sunny Day

Tonight's sunset in Haarlem

Sunset colours in Haarlem's art deco station

I couldn't agree more...

Chocolate shoes in the Jordaan

Keep diversity in society: Save The Really?

Darling Clementine

Like samphire in the previous post, clementines were something I'd been hanging to try since they are not available in Sydney but in abundance here. They look so beautiful, piled in crates stamped with sunny destinations like Morocco and Italy, many with their dark green leaves attached. I have been annoying Dani since we got here - what could I make with them? look how pretty they are! wow, 2 kilos for 2.49E! - so I decided to finally buy some and make something with them.

This Clementine and Olive Oil Cake recipe from Cafe Fernando is so easy. I've never made a cake with olive oil before but it makes the cake moist and light so I'll be seeking more recipes like this out. The scent of citrus, from rubbing the zest into the sugar to taking the cake out of the oven, brings such a happy, sunny smell to the house. Serve the cake with a dollop of creme fraiche.

So what are clementines like? Exactly like mandarins, seedless and maybe a touch sweeter. But don't you just love the name?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cult Steak And Irish Mash

I have wanted steak and mash for yonks. A simple, good piece of meat, cooked to juicy beefy perfection. Mash, maybe with a twist in the form of Heston Blumenthal's Irish mash. And it was the perfect excuse to try out an ingredient I'd heard about on The Cook and The Chef but couldn't find at home, yet here is in abundance: samphire.

I also thought it was time to try the now-infamous "choice into Gucci prime" salting method started by Steamy Kitchen, whereby you heavily salt steak and let it rest for between 15 minutes and one hour. The steak sucks in the salt, which then draws out the moisture. But then the steak drinks in the salt water - osmosis? - and leaves the meat tender and seasoned throughout.

And it absolutely works. The steak was lightly salted, juicy and a gorgeous aged deep red, with a lovely crust. I will definitely be doing my steaks like this from now.

Heston's Irish mash is made by cooking chopped spring onions in a little milk for 3 minutes so they still have bite, then adding the onions and onion milk to mash. His is of course butter-rich (250g for 4-6 people) but it doesn't need more than a tablespoon.

As for the samphire, these beautiful salty, crunchy beans only need to be poached in unsalted boiling water for a few minutes. They went very well with the dish.


Looking for a nice, quiet woman. I am a single man. If you want, call me please on...

Seen in Amsterdam Weekly.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Recipes From Home

Andrew sent me this recipe the other day, using pork chops, a similar recipe to one Kath makes with lamb chops. Since our Islamic shop is somewhat short of pork, I used lamb chops.

Sick of eating tuna salads and vegie soups and sandwiches, I was craving a real meal, both the cooking and eating, and this was it, good ol' meat and veg.

Seal the chops and remove. In the same pan braise fennel that has been cut into 8, along with spring onions, a head of garlic and my Dutch addition of mini brussel sprouts. They are really good. Cook until the vegies have some nice caramalisation then pop into the oven for 15-20 minutes, then top with the chops and roast for 5 minutes. The chops will be perfectly pink and juicy.

The smell of the caramalising fennel is out of this world, transforming the aniseed bulb into sweet, milder leaves. Try it even if you don't usually like fennel.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


The weather has been incredible these past few days. Blue skies, that low white sun that forces you to stare at the floor instead of marvelling around you, warm cheeks. The cafe terraces are filled, the canals are dotted with loungers tilted backwards to soak up the rays, the streets are thick with snack-chomping crowds - haring mmm, stroopwafels mmm, loempia mmm.

Come on come on come on come on and...

We swung by the international day of protest against $cientology...
it was small (about a dozen people) but anything counts.
Glad to hear Sydney was so huge!

The sculpture of Rembrandt's The Night Watch painting in the Rembrandtplein

We finally tried a Maoz falafel. Probably our only time. Sweet pickles, enough with the sweetness!
Not that it was bad, in fact the falafels themselves were plump and moist...but we want great

Sint Pieterspoort in Amsterdam

Amsterdam's Chinatown...what do I want more, haring or dumplings?

Chinatown. I love Chinatown

Haarlem's cafe terraces were out in full force on a usually quiet Sunday

There used to be a bakery next door to our place. I love the old tiles

Kawaii! Doesn't this make you smile?