Portuguese style mussels recipe

Trying to stop myself from making a Jean Claude van Damme joke
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I’ve been out of commission for a while, between a new (awesome) job, a break-up and my mom getting sick I basically haven’t had the energy to either cook or write. I don’t normally make new year’s resolutions but this year I decided I wanted to focus on becoming a more conscientious consumer, meaning I am to eat a lot less meat. Eating less meat means cooking more, so I’ve been trying a lot of new recipes.

Ironically the first recipe I’m sharing is not animal protein free, shit happens. This is loosely based on my dad’s recipe for mussels, the coriander is a Portuguese touch but you really don’t want to have mussels any other way once you’ve had them like this.

What you need
Mussels (1 kg per person)
1 onion or shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 glass of your favorite white wine
A carrot, finely chopped (optional)
A bunch of fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp plain flour
Butter
Olive oil

Recipe
Most people are scared to cook mussels because they’re afraid they’ll fuck up and end up with food poisoning. So the first thing you have to do is fill up your sink with cold water and a tablespoon of flour and dunk in the mussels. The flour will help filter out any sand in the mussels, their last meal will make yours more enjoyable. Leave them for 30 minutes and get rid of any mussels with broken shells or mussels that won’t close when you tap them on your kitchen counter. Rinse the mussels a few times with cold water and get rid of any access gross shit on the shells.

Fry off the onions and shallots in the butter and olive oil until soft, add salt and pepper and turn the heat up fairly high before tossing in the glass of white and the mussels. Put on the lid and let them cook for a few minutes before tossing them around (I use a ladle cause I’m not strong enough to toss mussels, I toss a mean salad though, ho hum) and adding the coriander (no need to chop this up or remove the stems, just chuck it in there). Put the lid back on for another few minutes and toss them around again. When all or most of the shells have opened the mussels are done. This should happen within at least 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t overcook them because they’ll get tough and gross.

I have mine with the left-over white wine, some bread, garlic butter and garlic sauce (store bought cause I’m lazy) and a close friend or two. You can use one shell as a happy little grabbing utensil to remove the mussels from the other shells. Don’t eat any mussels that are still closed.

You can strain and freeze the cooking liquid to make a banging ass risotto some other time.

Summer cobb salad

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Let me be a dickhead and admit that I am not even sure what goes into a regular cobb salad. I know I’ve had to eat regular ass cobb salad when I was on some kind of diet once, needless to say that didn’t last.

Pardon the ugly ass plate

Pardon the ugly ass plate

Anyway, summer started here (in so far as summer ever starts in Holland) and I spotted this recipe for summer cobb salad and it looked divine, so I had to have it. It’s super fresh and easy, and only idiots who don’t understand the magic that is blue cheese and fruit won’t like it.

What you need
Any kind of lettuce or salad you like (nothing to bitter I would say)
Chickenbreast, seasoned, grilled and diced
Soft blue cheese, diced
Raspberries
Blackberries
Avocado, diced
Boiled egg, diced
Almonds, chopped
Light vinaigrette (I just use 1/3 vinegar to 2/3rds olive oil with salt and pepper, maybe some honey)*

Basically… dump everything on a plate in individual portions. Make it look fancy like I did. Or not. C’est tout. Raspberries and blackberries aren’t cheap, and I reckon this would work equally well with either black grapes (halved) or strawberries or any kind of red fruit of your liking.

*The original recipe came with a far fancier dressing, but I found it a bit wasteful to buy cream (that I don’t otherwise use) for a little bit of dressing.

UPDATE: Make a dressing with 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp cider vinegar, 1 tbsp honey, salt, pepper and fresh thyme with this. Perfection.

Shakshuka, breakfast of champions

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I love poached eggs and I’ve been seeing these pictures of eggs poached in a tomato sauce make the rounds for a while now, so when Mr. Porker decided to make a rare appearance in my humble abode this weekend I decided to woo him with what I now know to be shakshuka.

All shook up

All shook up

Shakshuka is awesome and delicious and fun to say out loud, especially if you like your breakfast with a little kick to it.

What you need (serves 2)
4 eggs
Half a tin of peeled plum tomatoes
Half a yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 green chilies, finely chopped (I only deseed one)
Half a tbsp of smoked paprika
Half a tsp of ground cumin
A dollop of tomato puree*
A sprinkling of fresh parsley (curly or flat, up to you)
A sprinkling of feta cheese
Olive oil

Recipe
In a frying pan, fry off the onion and chilies in some olive oil on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, until they are soft and slightly golden brown. Add the garlic, smoked paprika and cumin and fry off for another 2 minutes, or until the garlic is soft. Mush up the tomatoes (I used a fork and banged it around in the tin) and add them to the frying pan with half a cup of water. Leave to simmer until the sauce is reduced by about half (5 to 10 minutes) and carefully plunk in the eggs, trying not to break the yoke. Leave on a comfortable bubble until the egg whites have set and sprinkle with the fresh parsley and feta cheese before you serve. Very good with some hot pita bread and the frying pan on the table so you can scrape out any left over juices. Nom.

*A special thank you to Mr. Strik, the recipe I was using did not include this dollop but his lady’s recipe did. Makes all the difference

Finally! Brunch in Amsterdam!

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I love brunch, but finding brunch in Amsterdam can be a bit of problem. Luckily the guys at Fraîche were offering some of the best brunch I’d ever in life, so when I heard they were opening a second location where I could have brunch all week I was sold.

Staring at Jacob has been open for a while now. Just as with Fraîche, service is informal but on point. The team always makes sure you’re happy and have everything you need, but aren’t too busy for a little chat either. It’s bustling on weekends, perfect for recovering from your hangover with friends on a lazy Sunday. And a little quieter on weekdays, making it perfect for business meetings (depending what business you’re in, I am in the business of being awesome, so it works perfectly for me).

Joy on a plate

Joy on a plate

I always start my brunches with a Virgin Bloody Mary, probably the best in town, if not the country. This virgin cocktail pulls such a punch you won’t even miss the alcohol. Previously I have enjoyed their chicken and waffles (a combination that will sound disturbing to anyone who hasn’t experienced the joys of soul food but that really is all kinds of genius), their house omelet and the ‘tree hugger’, a disturbingly filling salad.

The chicken and waffle recipe has gone through some positive changes since the first time I had them at Fraîche. Both the chicken and waffles have taken on American proportions, to fill my belly even further, and the chicken has been deboned, making the dish more accessible to people who don’t know how to eat right. The omelet is fluffy and filled to the brim with cream cheese and an incredible fresh salsa. The salad is very filling, maybe a little too filling? We had trouble finishing it, but if you’re having brunch that’s kind of the point.

It always saddens me how the Netherlands doesn’t have have a brunch culture (or an eating out culture for that matter), usually we grab a quick boring sandwich or a simple salad. Fraîche and Staring at Jacob keep convincing me that we should start living a little and that brunch in Amsterdam would be a perfect start.

EYE restaurant Amsterdam

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EYE Amsterdam is a cinema slash film museum that also happens to have a restaurant with one of the nicest views in the city. It overlooks the IJ and Amsterdam Central Station, which is just far away enough to make it look appealing again.

The food at EYE Amsterdam is also pretty good. I’m confused by their mains, which sound more like winter or fall dishes, so I never order them. The starters and the view are totally worth the trip though. We shared four starters between the two of us and included a portion of fries, which was maybe too much of a good thing.

The fries are really fucking good though, I suspect them of twice or maybe even triple frying them. The mayonnaise is proper home made French mayo, which is another boon. Just go for the fries, is what I’m really trying to say. Which reminds me: EYE actually gives you some good quality free bread with some really good quality salted butter before your meal, a rarity these days in the Netherlands, but at their price point this really should be a given.

Salmon of meh, though Mr. Porker liked them

Salmon of meh, though Mr. Porker liked them

We had the roll of smoked Bawykov salmon filled with herb cream cheese, with sweet and sour cucumber (pretty sure it was just pickled), herring roe and lettuce. Surprisingly, Mr. Porker, who isn’t into salmon, really liked this dish, whereas I thought it was kind of blah. Must’ve been the pickles.

Poached egg goodness

Poached egg goodness

We also had their steak tartar with poached quail’s eggs (the menu claims they are ‘soft boiled’, look at those eggs though, they’re poached as fuck). Poached eggs really are my thing, and these were poached to perfection and the runny egg yoke goes really well with that raw meat.

Eat all the salad!

Eat all the salad!

Finally we had their salad with thinly sliced entrecôte, rémoulade, cress, pecan nuts,  and violet potato chips and the pan fried tiger prawns with avocado, Iberico ham, crème fraîche, basil and fried noodles (described on the menu as crisp puff pastry). The salad may not look very enticing but it is a delight. The prawn dish could do with a crisping up of the Iberico ham to give it some texture, the point of deep fried noodles on any plate as anything more than a tiny bit of decoration is beyond me.

In short, EYE Restaurant Amsterdam is a great place to grab a bite to eat on a romantic date. The menu does need some fine-tuning though, both in conception as well as in how they name their dishes. I don’t think it’s necessary to list all the ingredients. The English translation of the menu may also need some work. Don’t let that stop you though.

I went to Crete and all I did was eat

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About a month ago I found a super sweet deal to Crete. Two hundred euros, flight and apartment included (pardon my Dutch, we do love to brag about our bargains), for a whole week! I’d never been to Greece before but I really needed a break and I love Greek food, so I figured it was about time to get my ass over there.

They said any coffee that spills symbolizes future wealth and good fortune

They said any coffee that spills symbolizes future wealth and good fortune

As I started researching Crete and the area where we booked I became slightly alarmed. We were right by Hersonissos, a popular destination for Dutch folk and Dutch ‘reality’ show Oh Oh Cherso wherein Dutch people go to Crete to eat Dutch food and hang out with other Dutch people. Crap. I decided not to tell Mr. Porker (we generally go on vacation to ‘experience new things’ while trying not to be the tourists we inevitably are) and hope for the best. And the best it was!

Basically, if you’re not really into ruins and archaeological museums (seen a few too many in my day, sorry), or into doing the stuff you would at home with the same people you encounter at home, but somewhere sunny, there isn’t all that much to do in Crete but enjoy the food and the scenery. Works for me.

We drove a few different places, and the drives were great, but the places were either filled with tourist claptrap or dead in the water (this may have been related to the time of year, again: works for me). The food however, was everything and more.

For our last meal at The Alchemist poppy made us dolmades from courgette flowers, such a treat

For our last meal at The Alchemist poppy made us dolmades from courgette flowers, such a treat

The Alchemist, Koutouloufari
We ended up becoming regulars at a place called The Alchemist in Koutouloufari, close to where we stayed. Kostas runs the bar, his brother Michael serves the tables and their mom Poppy makes the most delicious food ever. For their shrimp saganaki (shrimp in a tomato, bell pepper and feta sauce) they use local fresh shrimps, not frozen ones.The flavor on those little shrimps was insane, I’ve never had shrimps pack that much punch. Their dolmades offer delicious tiny explosions of flavor and their grilled octopus ain’t nothing to fuck with. Just revisiting the experience in my mind is traumatic, because I know I won’t be eating like this for a while.

Sex on a plate

Sex on a plate

Cretes have a tradition of hospitality (a nice departure from our tradition of blackface) so every time we visited we were greeted with a little extra plate of something or an extra shot (or two) of raki. They got us hooked on their Tyrokafteri (feta and chili dip) and what I think must be their dream cake (orange cake). Oomph. 

Best sardines ever

Best sardines ever

Bring out your inner Bacchus at Zachos
Another spot we couldn’t get enough of was Zachos. It’s located in Old Hersonissos on a square that has been polished up to give tourists an ‘authentic’ Cretan experience. Zachos had only opened the week before, but Mr. Porker was particularly enamored by his brand of humor so we gave it a go. No regrets, cause we basically had the best fried anchovies and grilled sardines we had ever had in life. We came back for seconds and had the most amazing courgettes ever.

Courgettes on crack

Courgettes on crack

I honestly don’t know how they do it, but courgettes there just taste better. They taste like courgettes on speed. Flowers on crack. Those courgettes are so awesome they deserved their own paragraph. I might even erect a monument in their memory in my backyard.

Maybe the best thing I've eaten in life

Maybe the best thing I’ve eaten in life

The sad thing about Old Hersonissos doing up their square is that the rest of the town is largely forgotten. Not that there is a lot to it. But there’s one restaurant, tucked away behind the square, that deserves honorable mention. If you go anywhere, go here. For one thing, the family who run it barely speak English (or Dutch, or French, or German, or Russian, as the rest of the locals are liable to do). So if you’re looking for that traditional hand and foot work travel experience, you’re in the right place. At Taverna Ta Petrina they cook all their food in a wood-burning oven. Despite not being able to speak much English (mom sticks to “Very nice” and “It’s the best” where as her daughter can explain to you that when you come back you will be married and have maybe one or two children, yes?) they were lovely and the food was insane.

We had one too many starters, and then ordered the pork belly (a picture of which is what lured us into the restaurant in the first place) and the moussaka. The moussaka was good, but the pork belly was insane. It melted on your tongue and the flavor was (yes I’m about to go there) orgasmic. It tasted very gamy, better than any pork (or meat really) that I’ve ever had before. It was a bit more pricey but I would give my life for that pork. No joke.

Fried anchovies, nough said

Fried anchovies, nough said

A request to the Dutch, from Crete
Finally I’d like to recommend a spot we discovered in Tzermiado (nice drive from Koutouloufari, again: fuck all to do but eat) where the only place showing signs of life was Taverna Cafe Kronio. The man who runs the place is grumpy in an endearing way. His complaints ran from there being too many customers, to the food being too much work and me ordering tea with my mezedes (“Wine is better”). He was honestly surprised a Dutch lady had heard of mezedes: “The French know, the Dutch never do.” They served us an amazing 18 different mezedes for only €9.40 a head (again, the Dutch do like a bargain).

Grumpy as he was, he ended up taking a shine to us and treating us to some free fresh oranges, a whole lot of raki and finally some mountain tea. When we left he asked me if I could please pass on a request to my fellow Dutch tourists: “Please leave your hotels and stop ordering tostis”.

So there you go, fuck your tosti, get down with the Creteness.

Roasted shrimp tacos with mango avocado salsa

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I love mango! I love avocado! I love shrimp! So when I saw this recipe for roasted shrimp with mango and avocado salsa I just had to try it. It’s a bit pricey with the shrimps and all but totally worth it.

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Sexy shrimp showing no leg at all

This is another one of my pick and mix recipes, you can make it as fancy and complicated or simple and easy as you like.

Ingredients
500 grams of shrimp
Olive oil
Garlic powder or fresh garlic
Fresh ground black pepper
1 Mango
1 Avocado
1 Lime
Fresh coriander
Feta or another young white cheese
Tortilla skins (whichever you prefer)
Jalapeno chilies or mango sambal if you can get it

Get cookin’ 
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celcius. Chuck all your shrimps into an oven proof dish and cover in olive oil, garlic (crushed and finely chopped if using fresh) and fresh ground black pepper. I recommend using either fresh or frozen unpeeled shrimp, even if the unpeeled ones cause a lot of hassle when assembling your tacos, they do taste about a bazillion times better. Place shrimps in oven until cooked. I can’t tell you how long this takes, I go for a translucent pink as opposed to a translucent grey look.

Next, finely chop your mango and avocado (more on that here, you can also cube it in its skin of course) and add the finely chopped jalapenos, or if you have some, a good dollop of mango sambal (if you live in the Netherlands, you can order some here). Mix together in a bowl with some lime juice. Crumble the feta into rough little chunks, this is easiest done by hand or fork, and place in a bowl. Finely chop the fresh coriander and place in a separate bowl.

Heat your tortilla skins in a dry pan, placing them on a plate and covering them with a towel as you go along. Place the tortilla skins, shrimps, salsa, feta and coriander on the table and let your guests help themselves.

Indonesian soto ayam

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Mr. Porker developed a taste for the saoto soup at the Javanese-Surinamese food spot around the corner from his, so I decided it was time to introduce him to some ‘proper’ Indonesian soto ayam instead.

Indonesian soto ayam

Everything in a bowl

This is a pretty involved recipe. For my first attempt I spent a good four hours in the kitchen, it was gone in less than 30 minutes, bar a left-over bowl for Mr. Porker to have during his hangover today. I’d say this recipe makes about four decent bowls of soup.

Soto ayam is kind of a DIY soup. The way you serve it is by placing the broth on the table and then having a bunch of different components on the table for your guests to compose their own ideal broth to filling ratio.

Ingredients
1 chicken
1 clove of garlic
2 shallots
1 small cube of trassi (dry fish paste)
1 tbs of turmeric (powder or freshly grated)
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 stick of lemongrass
1 packet of bumbu for soto (we cheat, I know)
Chinese glass noodles
2 spring onions
Half a kilo of new potatoes, boiled, peeled and quartered (in no particular order)
Bean sprouts
4 eggs
Cabbage (whatever tickles your fancy)
A bunch of flat leaf parsley
Sambal oeloek or a fresh red chili (deseeded and finely sliced), for serving
Crispy fried onions, for serving

Brothy broth broth 
For the broth, first you pound together the garlic, shallots, trassi and turmeric to a fine paste (or bumbu, just like the one you bought in the store) in a pestle and mortar. Place the chicken in a large pan and fill with 1.5 liters of water and turn on the heat. Once the water has come to the boil, add the freshly made bumbu, half of the store-bought bumbu, the kaffir lime leaves and the bruised lemon grass. Leave to cook on a medium heat with the lid on for about an hour, or until the meat falls off the bone. Remove the chicken from the broth and pull off as much meat as is humanly possible. Return the meat to the broth, cutting any larger pieces into bite sized chunks. Adjust the seasoning of the soup with salt, pepper and some lemon juice.

All the bowls 
You’re going to need a lot of bowls. To prepare the sides clean the bean sprouts and place them in a bowl, you should end up with a good four handfuls. Bring a decent amount of water to the boil and lower in the eggs (at room temperature or they will burst). Cook them for 10 minutes, until they are hard boiled. Rinse with plenty of cold water, peel and place in a bowl. Finely chop the parsley, chili, spring onions and cabbage and place in assorted bowls. Fry off the new potatoes pieces in some vegetable oil, and… place in a bowl. Finally, soak the glass noddles in luke warm water for 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse with cold water to prevent them from getting sticky. And guess what? Place them in a goddamned bowl too.

Soto ayam: ASSEMBLE!
Place the broth and all your bowls (glass noodles, fried potatoes, bean sprouts, chopped chili, spring onions and cabbage) on the table alongside some sambal oeloek and fried onions and spoons for whoever doesn’t like to touch food with their hands (pussies).

Build up your soto ayam is as follows: place some glass noodles in the bottom of your bowl. Top with some cabbage, bean sprouts, spring onions and fried potatoes, then a quartered egg and ladle over the broth. Finally, sprinkle some fried onions on top and adjust the heat with either sambal or some chopped chilies. Try not to get soto all over yourself while you slurp up those noodles. Enak!

Kimchi Burger

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After making this awesome kimchi sweet potato salad to go with my Korean slow roast ribs, me and Mr. Porker were rather peckish on this New Year’s Eve. And then I had a stroke of genius… BEHOLD: the kimchi burger!

Kimchi burger, burgering

Kimchi burger, burgering

Basically I’m style biting from the kimchi sweet potato salad recipe, but gochujang (Korean chili paste) is pretty much Korean for crack and makes everything better.

What you need
Kimchi (store bought this time, but I’ll try and make my own soon)
Burger buns (whichever you prefer)
Lettuce or salad leaves (I use baby gem leaves, crispy and fresh)
Avocado
Burgers (again, store bought this time, but do make your own)
1 tbsp of guchojang
1 tbsp of mayo (Hellman’s or similar)

Fry up the burgers. Slice your buns in half and grill them cut-side-down on a griddle (seriously, this makes all the difference in a good home made burger). Mix the guchojang with the mayo. Assemble your burger in the layering of your choice (I went with bun> lettuce> burger> avocado> kimchi> sauce myself) and bask in the glory of this burger.

Best recipes for home made kimchi and home made basic burgers are welcome.