At the very moment that I have started to write this post I am sat underneath my partner as he sorts through his childhood things in the loft of his home back in the Netherlands with his mother. I am sat on his brothers office chair at the foot of the ladder as I have no head for heights (a phobia that emerged when I was 10 as I screamed for a solid 15 minutes when I first tried out abseiling on the Isle of Wight)
Hmmm that reminds me…
List Item: Abseil something
I can not begin to count how many times I have been to the Netherlands, but I do know that the first time I made this journey was in May of 2009 when I went to visit him in his home country and had the heart-stopping moment of meeting a large proportion of his family at a BBQ. To this day I still remember the nerves I felt, being a family of two the idea of being introduced to ~20 members of someone else’s family felt… surreal.
We are over here in January (where it is rather cold) since it was my partner’s 30th birthday (and as a extra treat the family reveal that I am to become an uncle which is rather exciting). Already we have had the obligatory (and fun) catch-up with a few members of his family, watched a movie or two and dined on some Dutch food (drop, frikendellan, bitterballen etc.), now is the final day before heading back to the UK.
This trip in January 2015 is the first since I started this blog and the various challenges linked to it. As such, my partner and his mother have been really accommodating to my food list which leads me to the rest of this post.
List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Here was me slowing down a bit on the food acquisitions only to gain a few more on this trip to the Netherlands.
Okay, so it doesn’t feel like this one should count as much since I had this in the airport on the way to the Netherlands, but it did form part of the trip. Being aware of the sort of food you have in the Netherlands we went for a pre-flight meal in Comptoir Libernais (see previous post for more food findings). Since my partner ordered something that would take a while to cook we ordered ourselves some Labneh as a starter. This sour strained goat’s yoghurt was acidic yet refreshing. It was basically a thick and sour creme fraiche which went well with the warmed flatbread.
Okay, so now we are in the Netherlands proper and, having been told about the book, we visited a local cheese farm for a bit of a perusal. Oh how many flavours of local cheeses there were! If I could have I would have liked to sample each and every one of them. Still, we bought two wedges which included one flavoured with fenugreek. I sampled some there, the fenugreek giving the cheese an earthy and curry-like hint, but I will be looking forward to a lot of toasties with them on.
After this we went to Nijkerk, the local big town. The main reason was to get supplies for the get together that night but also to help me cross of some Dutch things from the list.
The first thing I saw was the other listed apple. In the book it is under the name Reine de Reinettes, but it is sold in the Netherlands under the name Goudrenettes. I could not believe my good fortune so had to buy two of these to sample, despite being better used as a cooking apple. It’s IS on the sour side of apples but that’s why I liked it. The only thing that I have against this apple is that it was rather hard, so by the time you reached the core it was getting pretty dense. Still, a real turn up for the blog.
We then paid a visit to the fishmonger (apparently a fairly well renowned one in the area) where we got two more fish for my list as well as a pack of kibbeling for lunch (think chunky battered white fish pieces, cod cheek in this instance, with a gorgeously sweet garlic dipping sauce).
The first of these I tried was the maatjesharring. This is something so Dutch that it was mentioned in the book The Undutchables and even has an associated ‘Dutch way’ of eating them by eating the whole thing in one go (minus the tail) by dipping it into your mouth from above. Personally, I just used a knife and fork. This fish falls into a similar category to rollmops and the Cantabrian baqarones. It is a type of ‘soused herring’ that has been preserved and spiced in a special way. They are very slippery and oily, but with s flavour that is milder and meatier compared to their cousin the roll mop. Yes, there are bones but there are small enough to be easily crunched and swallowed. I have to say that I did enjoy this Dutch fish treat.
Then… there came the smoked eel. This is something I have not been able to get in Britain unless I paid a pretty penny for it. I don’t know why it cost less here but I am happy that is did because it was easily one of the best fish that I have ever tasted. I have been a fan of eel since I first tasted it back in 2008 as a sushi topping. Here, on it’s smoked own, I could have easily eaten a whole fillet to myself. You can tell this is a fatty fish as you eat it. The way it melts in your mouth and is so easy to cut with the side of the fork… Yum. I almost felt guilty eating this… but not too much.
We finished this outing with a trip to the supermarket (there are three in the town, and I asked if we could do a second one later). Six more things were found, and then eaten at different times. The first two (pictured above) formed part of breakfast the next day.
Firstly, there is the horsemeat. The book doesn’t specify how the horse should be eaten so we got some smoked horse meat that could be used on sandwiches, or eaten as it is. Ignoring the smokiness of the meat it is easy to see that this is a meat that is low in fat and is rather tender and delicate. It was nice, but I think I still prefer smoked pork over smoked horse. However, I think I would prefer a horse steak over lamb if this is anything to go by.
Then there is the Leidsekaas, a cumin cheese from the Leyden region. The cumin flavour really gave the cheese an earthy warmth which felt odd compared to the springing nature of the rest of the cheese. It was really nice on a warmed roll and, oddly, was a good accompaniment to the smoked horse. Pity we can’t get a cheese like this so easily in the UK.
This was a slightly weird one to get since I had already planned to tick this off with a Crunchie bar once I got home. Instead, here as part of a chocolate selection from my partner’s sister I was able to check off the honeycomb toffee. Not so good by itself, but made really good when covered in milk chocolate (as are so many other things if we are being honest).
In the end it was a really nice three days away from the stresses of work.
And, since I am to become an uncle, it only makes sense that I should be able to talk to them… guess I should start learning Dutch then.