There’s nothing I will not eat (as long as it’s food, of course). I have a healthy appetite and an adventurous palate. One of my favorite things growing up was my mother’s tripe soup. The whole house reeked when she made it, but the taste was sublime. I would greedily slurp up a bowl and ask for seconds without hesitation. One time, when I was about eight or nine, I invited a friend over while my mother was making the soup. Either she was very polite or there was something wrong with her sense of smell because she didn’t so much as wince disapprovingly. In fact, when my mother offered her a bowl, she nodded her head in agreement and we both slurped together. And asked for seconds together.
I suppose it’s much like French andouillette, a sausage made from pig intestines (aka ‘chitterlings’). You either love it (if you can get past the smell)… or loathe it.
One of the things I was never too fond of, however, was caulifower. No matter how I prepared the curdy-looking white vegetable, it tasted insipidly unpleasant. Like hospital food. No amount of salt would make it better.
Until I put on my hipster hat and learned to use it as a replacement for potatoes, rice and other types of refined carbs, that is. The first time I tried it instead of mashed potatoes, I was sold. Yesterday I whipped up a batch paella-style (sans seafood and meat) and it was delicious. To think that you can wolf this down in large quantities without ever having to experience an ounce of guilt. After all, it’s just vegetables! I will be adding some shrimp the next time, though.
Here’s the recipe:
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 600g cauliflower, trimmed into florets and blitzed in a food processor
- 2 tsps turmeric
- 1 tsp smoked paprika powder
- sea salt and freshly-cracked pepper
- 150g green peas
- 2 roasted sweet peppers (from a jar), chopped
- squeeze of lemon
- optional: shrimp, mussels, cooked chicken
Heat the olive oil in a large casserole. Add the cauliflower and cook for a minute before stirring in the turmeric, smoked paprika and salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the peas and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Stir in the red peppers shortly before the end of the cooking time and squeeze in a bit of lemon. If you want you can add shrimp, mussels or cooked chicken toward the end of the cooking time. A scattering of flat-leaf parsley is also lovely, though I didn’t have any on hand.
I don’t know what got in to me, but I have a confession to make. Are you sitting down? OK, here goes…
I finally had a day off yesterday. The next issue of DUTCH is pretty much on its way to print, my next column for En Route only needs some polishing, and I have rounded off a few interesting translating assignments. So what did I do during my ‘breather’? I started with a long run. It was fabulous weather, so I really went for it. It felt like I was flying! Unfortunately, I think I need to cut down on my sessions a bit because later that evening my knee was killing me. I honestly don’t know how I slept. Major bummer. It’s better today but still not 100%. Good reason to schedule an appointment with the physiotherapist, which is what I did this morning.
Before the knee pain hit. however, I had a chance to give the house a good scrub. The French doors were filthy! As I was scrubbing them I wondered why I had gone running — it was one heck of a workout! But all my efforts were well worth it. By the end of the day, the house was tidy again, the floors were clean, I had done several laundries… and I even managed to squeeze in baking a cake! One with booze!
For those of you who aren’t Dutch or don’t live in the Netherlands, the cake has brandy-soaked apricots, known as ‘boerenmeisjes’, which translates to ‘farmer girls’ . It is a popular treat in the north of the country and usually enjoyed in a small glass on special occasions. It i also used to top pancakes or ice cream. For added color, I added in some fresh raspberries. The cake has a lovely tender crumb and is perfect with tea in the garden on a sunny day… or scarfed on the couch with one’s feet up after a long day playing Cinderella! Enjoy!
Cake with ‘Boerenmeisjes’ & Raspberries
- 100g soft butter
- 130g raw cane sugar, plus 2 tbsps for sprinkling
- 2 eggs
- 150g boerenmeisjes (brandy-soaked apricots), chopped, plus 2 tbsps brandy
- 150g Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 220g all-purpose flour
- 125g fresh raspberries
Butter and flour a round 20cm springform tin and preheat the oven to 180C. Cream the butter and sugar with a standing or hand-held mixer until pale and creamy. Add in the brandy from the boerenmeisjes and the eggs one by one while continuing to beat. Fold in the yogurt using a wooden spoon. In a bowl, combine the baking powder with the flour. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Fold in the boerenmeisjes and raspberries and pour the batter into the tin. Sprinkle with the 2 tbsps sugar. Pop into the oven and bake for approximately 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting.
This weekend while having lunch at Het Hert (great, little restaurant in Naarden, by the way), my husband and I discussed our vacation plans. Every year the same question arises: “Duras or something else?” — in France, obviously. We have been visiting Duras every summer since 2009 and every time we fall in love with the village and surrounding area even more. Driving into Duras always feels like coming home. So much so, that I’ve even joked about having lived there in a past life. We love that place so much. But we also love all the other villages and cities in the area. Like Miramont, Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, Monségur, Issigeac, Soumensac, Marmande and Bergerac. And of course places like Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux and Arcachon, which are a little further away and well worth the drive.
So, as you may have guessed, it didn’t take long for us to decide that this summer it was going to be Duras, for the ninth time! We rented a beautiful house from one of our friends there and I am already looking forward to August! Our hotels for overnight stops in Vierzon and Orléans have also been booked. Yay!
But first, plenty of other things to look forward to — like our trip to Le Touquet-Paris-Plage in April and working on my cookbook. Most of my days are spent immersed in studying, writing about and practicing French cuisine. Yesterday I made a lovely Flan Parisien (hurray for the new oven — which came in a week late, but still). For lunch, I quickly threw together a Salade Lyonnaise. Of course, I could not find frisée salad (something to do with it being Sunday and living in a Dutch suburb), so I had to settle for romaine, which wasn’t a bad alternative. I wrote a very rough recipe, which I am sharing with you today. The full (and improved recipe) will be in my book — more about that in due time!
Have a great week!
- 1 1/2 tbsps red wine vinegar
- 4 tbsps sunflower oil
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp dried chervil
- 1/2 dried parsley
- Fleur de sel & freshly cracked pepper
- 6 handfuls of crisp lettuce leaves
- knob of butter
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 100g lardons
- 1/4 baguette, cubed
- 3 tbsps white wine vinegar
- 3 fresh eggs
In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, mustard, dried herbs and salt and pepper to make a dressing. Reserve 1 1/2 tbsp of the dressing and toss the lettuce leaves in the rest, making sure they are coated with the dressing. Divide over 3 plates. Melt the butter in a frying pan and gently sauté the shallots. Add the bacon, increase the heat and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cubed bread and toss for another five minutes. In the meantime, bring a large pan of water to a simmer for the eggs. Add the vinegar and stir with a whisk to create a whirlpool effect. Add each egg one by one to the water and poach for 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 minutes, depending on their size. Add the reserved dressing to the bread and bacon, give it a final stir and divide over the salad. Top with the poached egg, season with a little salt and serve.