Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eel in green sauce

I've had another Dutch success- though this time the inspiration seems to have come from Belgium.
Still, eel in green sauce is also eaten in Holland and now it's part of my repertoire as well.
Originally made with river eel, here in Aus it seems more likely that the dish will be made with sea eel, but the concept remains the same.
It might be 'in green sauce', but I find the result to be rather more yellow than green. I guess this may change with different herb ratios or eggs that aren't quite so happy and free-range, and I have yet to report the findings if I were to use fresh herbs (rather than dried as the recipe suggests)- but you get the drift.
This is another gem from that brilliant work of the 1970's 'Dutch and Belgian Cooking'.
You see, despite all evidence that this book is less than exemplary when it comes to Dutch cuisine, I live in hope.

First... find your eel.
In my case a certain amount of scouting around town turned up Win Sam Seafood, in Glen Waverley, who regularly display Australian eel, but it is worth checking before you set out. After all, it's not your most common fish item.
I also found that Ducgo Live Seafood in Box Hill often has eel, but they were down on stock when I called.

Eel in Green Sauce- "Paling in het groen"

  • 1kg eel, cleaned
  • 3 Tspn butter
  • 6 shallots finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp tried tarragon
  • 2 Tspn finely chopped fresh parseley
  • 1/2 tsp salt & pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 eggs yolks- lightly beaten
  • Juice 1/2 lemon

Cut the eel into 5cm pieces. Heat the butter in a fry-pan and saute eel over moderately high heat until pieces are lightly browned on all sides.
Add the shallots, herbs, salt and pepper, white wine and just enough water to barely cover the eels. Bring the dish to a simmer, cover the pan and cook gently for 6-8 minutes or until the eel is tender when tested with a skewer.
Remove the eels to a serving dish and set aside. Ladle a small amount of the hot pan liquid into the beaten eggs yolks and whisk thoroughly. Then pour the whisked egg mixture back into the pan liquid, along with the lemon juice- whisking continuously until slightly thickened.

Note: do not allow the mixture to boil, particularly after the eggs have been added or it will cook the egg proteins into unattractive milky strands.
Not so appealing.
Pour the sauce over the eels in the serving dish and place in the fridge to chill.
Serve cold, garnished with extra parsley and heavy, dark bread like pumpernickel, to scoop up the sauce.
Surprisingly sweet, the dish has a velvety, creamy texture and is lovely in a small serve as a starter, or as a larger dish for mains.

Perfect for warmer days.


Finally! Super Dutch success!
A dish that I loved, Patience wolfed down and we'll happily make and serve again.
These little deep fried balls of mince-y goodness are found lurking anywhere you can buy a beer in Holland- a bit hot like chips here in Australia. Only these are served with mustard and they're a great stomach liner for the long beer filled afternoons ahead this summer.
Easy to make, tasty to eat and interesting enough to impress guests when you serve them.
Again, this recipe is derived from one found in Dutch & Belgian Cooking - published 1978 through Bay Books. Anything that can be served on cocktail sticks is a winner according to the era.

Bitterballen: Savoury mince balls
(makes about 40 balls- depending on the size you roll them)
  • 3 Tablespoon butter
  • 5 Tablespoon plain flour
  • 1 cup chicken or beef stock
  • 500g pork or beef mince (we use pork)
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp brown or Worcestershire sauce
  • oil to deep fry
  • 2 egg whites, whisked until frothy
  • 1/2 fine bread crumbs
  • Mustard of your choice to serve
In a large fry-pan brown the mince evenly. Doing it in batches helps to reduce the water content that can cause it to stew rather than brown, and you'll want it to be nice a browned all over. Remove it from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan melt the butter, add the flower and cook for around 2 mins, stirring constantly. Add the stock to the p
an a little at a time, stirring continuously until a smooth paste is formed. Add the cooked mince, parsley, salt and pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Stir together until thoroughly combined.
Spread the mixture out evenly on a flat plate and chill for two hours or until firm enough to handle.
Heat the oil for frying in a saucepan. Form the mine mixture into balls about 2cm in size. Dip in the beaten egg whites and then roll in breadcrumbs. Drop into the boiling oil and deep-fry until crispy and golden brown, about 4 at a time is good.
Pile in a bowl and serve with a dipping bowl of mustard and an icy beer, or a crisp glass of gin.

They're best eaten while hot and crunchy, they're a crowd pleaser- but then, they are deep fried and served with beer.

Note: You don't have to use brown or Worcestershire sauce- but they do add a nice tang to the bitterballen. I've seen other recipes that leave this out all together or substitute other sauces including tomato, it's up to you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

High Stakes: Hospitality, drugs and the workplace

Featured on the brilliant website:

NOTE: Whilst researching this article I was interested to find that the prevailing attitude in hospitality is that employees are just more open to talking about drug use, rather than a feeling that it is more prevalent in hospitality than other industries.

It's still a thorny topic for obvious reasons however and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to speak candidly to me on the subject.


Veal Tongue with sour sauce-

OK- it looks a bit gross.
I'll even go so far as to say that it appears a bit rude... it's not my fault that it looks so anatomical in it's bowl of water.
It's veal tongue by the way.

This is another attempt at a Dutch recipe from the brilliant (and very 'of it's time') 1970's 'Dutch & Belgian Cooking' from Bay Books Round the world cooking library.
God bless the developments in cooking... and god bless Patience for having the courage to try all the dishes that I place in his path. I'm pretty sure that he didn't sign up for this.
I have to say that I went into this dish a sceptic. It could have been hideous for so many reasons. But thankfully this one was a winner, despite it's ubiquitous 'grey' Dutch sauce.
And it's surprisingly simple- as long as you allow for the extended cooking time to melt the tongue into its gelatinous, gooey glory.

This dish was inspiring to me for two reasons.
First, it's Dutch, from one of the few Dutch cookbooks that I've been able to find written in English. I think I've made it pretty clear that I'm on a mission to connect with my Dutch roots, so here I start with looking at Dutch cooking as the first link back to my heritage.
The second reason the dish caught my eye was because I am fascinated by offal, 'olde foode' and the cuts of meat that industrialisation has seen fall by the wayside.
Tongue is one of these. A cut that we often overlook now that mass production allows us to buy prime cuts, prepackaged and divorced from the use of the whole beast.
If I'm going to allow myself to eat and enjoy meat, I'm not going to ignore the more time consuming cuts.
So I'm adding tongue to my diet- and it's a fantastically tasty, unusual and incredibly cheap option.

Veal tongue with sour sauce- Kalfstong met zure saus

1 veal tongue (about 1kg)
1 tsp salt
1 carrot- peeled and sliced
1 onion- roughly chopped
leafy tops of 1 bunch celery
1 sprig parsley & 1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
4 peppercorns- crushed
1 clove

For the sauce:
  • 4 tablespoon butter
  • 4 tablespoon plain flour
  • 2 cups of the cooking liquid (see method)
  • 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 3 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Soak the tongue in cold water for several hours or overnight. Rinse the tongue under cold running water and rub lightly with salt.
Place the tongue in a large pot along with the vegetables, herbs and spices and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer (advice from Stephanie Alexander's notes on tongue cooking says that the water should be barely moving- otherwise the tongue will toughen).
Simmer gently for 3 hours or until the tongue is tender when a thing skewer is inserted.

At this point you'll need to skin the tongue, so remove it from the pan and while it is still hot peel the outer skin off- it will come off easily while the tongue is still very hot and gets more difficult as the tongue cools, so the quicker the better. The skin is grayish and tough looking and should separate quite easily from the gorgeous glutenous pink meat underneath.

Strain the cooking broth and set aside two cups to make the sauce. Put the rest of the broth, along with the tongue back into the pan to keep warm.
In a new pan melt half of the butter, stir in the flour (taking care to get rid of any lumps that form), then slowly add the cooking broth that you set aside earlier. It's important to do this slowly and the whisk the sauce continuously until you have a smooth sauce.
In a bowl combine a little of this warm sauce with the lightly beaten eggs, whisking to make sure the eggs don't cook in the warm liquid. Then add the egg mixture to the pan of sauce over a low heat and continue to whisk. Add the remaining butter and vinegar.
Do not allow the sauce to boil once the eggs are in otherwise you will get strings of egg protein in the sauce.

Slice the tongue and remove any gristle from the root. Arrange the slices on a warm serving dish and pour a little of the sauce over.
Serve warm with a side of broad beans.

Note: This dish can also be served cold, but is best enjoyed warm when the tongue is still soft.

The buttery sauce is cut beautifully by the sharp vinegar that gives it the 'sour sauce' name and it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Having not been a huge fan (or so I thought) of tongue before I started cooking this dish, I am now a changed woman and find nothing tastier than freshly cooked veal tongue.
The dish can be made with beef tongue too, but obviously the younger veal cut will provide a more tender result. I'll also be honest and say that the smell of veal tongue is not as pungent as fully fledged beef (for those with sensitive noses). Not that it's a bad smell, it's just very brothy.
They both taste wonderful however and a beef tongue certainly feeds more people.

Eet Smakelijk!

And what an adventure!

Rabbit Brabant Style- a Dutch disaster...

Today I had a realisation- when it comes to Dutch cooking, my mother might be right.
She maintains that the majority of Dutch food that she has experienced in her time is grey. Her comments are not to be discounted, after all she has been married to my expat Dutch dad for 30+ years- so she oughtta know right?
What she means is that it seems to end up smothered in a grey-ish sauce comprised mostly of butter and flour and that as a result it tends to look (and in some cases taste) the same.
I've been busily trying to defy her. Claiming that with culinary contributions that include Edam cheese, pickled herring (rollmop) and poffertjes (tiny little fluffy pancakes), there has to be more to this cuisine than meets the eye?

So I spent the weekend on another Dutch cooking mission- armed with a 1970's copy of 'Dutch & Belgian Cooking' from Bay Books Round the world cooking library.

Perhaps the book itself was a bad choice- but it seems to be one of so few Dutch cook books out there written in English.
I have to say that my first dish was less than pleasing to the eye. Sad considering that the ingredients were all good. So far I'm yet to find anything outstanding beyond canapes. *Sigh* I'm including the recipe here more as a documentation rather than as a recipe that I suggest you try. After all, rabbit and prunes sounds like such a good idea... it's so easy to see just how I got sucked in! But in the end, the grey sauce just let me down.

Rabbit Brabant Style:
  • 1 young rabbit- jointed
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • pinch salt
  • black pepper (freshly cracked) to taste
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tblspn butter
  • 250 grams prunes (soaked overnight in water)
  • 1 tblspn brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 2 tblspn flour
Place the rabbit pieces in a shallow dish. Combine the onion, thyme, bay, vinegar and water and pour over the rabbit. Cover the pan tightly with foil or plastic and marinate over night in the fridge.
Remove rabbit from the marinade and dry thoroughly, strain and reserve marinade. Season flour with salt and pepper and coat the rabbit evenly.
Heat the butter in a large frypan with a fitted lid. Brown the rabbit on all sides over high heat until golden. Add the strained marinade mixture to the pan. Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 30mins. Then add the drained prunes, sprinkle over brown sugar and simmer for a further 15mins.
Combine the beer and flour, mixing until smooth. Remove rabbit from the pan to a warmed serving dish, add the beer mixture to the sauce stirring continuously until the sauce has thickened.
Distribute the prunes around the rabbit and then pour the source over to serve.

It's at this point that I wonder why I poured the sauce over at all. Maybe it would have been better reserved for adding at the table to each individual plate. The dish looked okay until I poured it on. But the sauce just looked like a lovely beige clag... yum.

Patience and I stared at the final dish. He even dared to taste it and concluded that it didn't taste too bad... maybe a touch vinegary.
But the fact remained that the finished product was such a congealed mess on the plate that I simply had to call my mother (with tears of laughter streaming down my cheeks) to describe what was in front of me: "Maybe you were right." *Gasp-giggle-gasp* "... it looks like the dog threw-up all over my perfectly good rabbit and prunes!" *squeals of laughter* - my mother paused for breath; "well at least it's more beige than grey darling... well done!"

Note: not such a great Dutch dish... ahhh well, the search continues- onto the next one! And as Patience pointed out, it all comes down to that sauce, but it could have something to do with the era the cookbook is from.