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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Dutch homemade soup with meatballs.

On the first night in Leiden I got invited along to an English ex-pat general knowledge quiz at an elegant and very verdant café by the Burcht van Leiden (Old fort). I have never seen so much green! Even though most of the questions were beyond my knowledge I did learn that Polyorchid means having three testicles and pictures of double dildos are perfectly normal in Holland in the pictorial - guess the object- round. And there was me thinking it was something used to get up the U bend in the loo. I was close.

Anyway, on this fine night of quizzing I got to meet the charming Yuri. Yuri is a very intelligent man and lectures in a variety of disciplines and sciences. He is also very amusing and totally un -snobbish. I liked him straightaway and was delighted when he joined Emma and myself on the Thursday to do some shopping in the Albert Heijn supermarket. It was decided that we would make a Groente Soep met Ballen - vegetable soup with meatballs. We also bought some cheeses and bread rolls to have with it. The cheeses were a Kernheim (semi soft and creamy) cheese and a Biologische Blauwe Kaas (blue cheese). I took a few pictures in the supermarket including these three below that amused me in mis-interpretation. The first one I read as 'Nazi Specials; the second as pink ass and the third - well that doesn't take much guessing.

The first was ready made ingredients for Indonesian Nasi dishes, The second the checkout where cards are allowed in payment pin kassa and the third the quite innocent Dutch for You Can. And there was me getting all offended! Ha!

And so, back at Emma's house Yuri and I got busy chopping up the celery, carrots, onions, leeks and garlic for the soup. Plus we threw in the few asparagus left from the previous steak meal. Then I got a sudden need for a couple of beers and asked Emma for directions back to Albert Heijn at 85 Hooigracht. The other main supermarkets in Leiden are Lidl, Dirk, Hoogvliet, and Aldi.

Typical of me I managed to go completely the wrong way taking a left down Middelstegracht past the Sint Anna Hofje and ended up near the Nieuwe Rijn canal (there are a fair few canals in Leiden). Then I ventured towards a white canal bridge - the Gansoordbrug - and turned right down Hooigracht  and therefore did a full circular tour all the way back parallel to the way I'd already walked. Eventually, after about twenty minutes walk I was back at the Albert Heijn supermarket and purchased two Dutch beers. I was in beer heaven as there are a phenomenal amount to choose from.

I was wearing an African design summer shirt and whilst in the  queue a big tall black guy kept telling me how nice my shirt was. He looked most put out when I said that I wasn't around to buy a similar shirt from his market stall on Saturday. I don't think he believed I was going home. He gave me a most serious look up and down.

By the time I got back the soup was pretty much ready and very much enjoyed by us three.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Buying sirloin steaks from a Dutch butcher.

Wednesday in Leiden found Emma and myself heading off towards a rather cultured looking housing estate via engrossing chats with random people she knew along the way including her medical practitioner who has been helping her shoulder heal. He just happened to be in his garden as we passed by!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my Dutch holiday was catching up with Emma's news and experiencing the Dutch way of life first hand. After a fairly lengthy walk we ended up - via a - let's check out the puppies - pet shop - at Keurslagerij - Ed Nozeman's butchers shop ( a rather upper class affair) on Hoffstraat number 9. I rustled up my minimal Dutch language and cautiously asked for two entrecote (sirloin) steaks.

"Ik wil graag drie entrecote steaks alstublieft." said I. It seemed to work and the butcher spoke back to me in Dutch. I could only assume that he was asking how thick I wanted them so I indicated a certain thickness with my fingers. This got a thumbs up sign. They cost  21.90 Euros. According to the receipt I was served by Lisane. 'U bent geholfen door Lisane.' It was interesting for me to notice that the butcher wasn't wearing whites but a smart blue-grey tunic.

I posed proudly for a photo outside the shop and we returned back to her place where we cooked the steaks along with some new potatoes and asparagus purchased at the Albert Heijn supermarket.

I also paid for the steaks and kept the receipt for reference as well as picking up one of their free magazines at the doorway. It might be in Dutch but it is a good way of learning a language. There is a three page spread promoting asperges (asparagus) with ham ideas which would take me months to fully interpret but inspiring all the same.

We also made a blue cheese sauce to go with it. As I forgot to take a photo of the meal on the day (shameful) I have made a replica meal today from a sirloin steak from my local butcher and I have made a blue cheese sauce (Stilton and crème fraiche melted on butter) to knapp over the new potatoes, the steak and the Norfolk asparagus. Yummy.

Experiencing the Leiden food market by the canal on Wednesday.

Knowing that I was departing for England early on Saturday morning I was keen to re-visit the Leiden open market around the main canal basin on the Wednesday. Here is my short video of my experience. Emma, Ronald and I met up for lunch at the big fishmonger stand where I had a smoked eel cob and the others had some kibberlings (fried fish snacks with dipping sauce). Not sure why the uploading of the video has muddied some the of the faces though. That wasn't the case when I made the video. Hey ho.

Kibberlings with sauce.

My smoked eel cob.

The market was fairly busy with plenty of activity around the fish counter. Looking from a Tesco supermarket perspective I could imagine the cry of 'Temperature abuse!' going up seeing the various sorts of fish products piled high on the outdoor stand. However it was selling so quick that it mattered not that the fish potentially was out of temperature. And those salmon sides need trimming too!

Me with my super special and super talented friend Emma Brown.

Food adventures in Leiden Holland

At last I have a little time to write up some of my recent food adventures. Now, to me, a food adventure can be something as simple as buying a steak in foreign butcher's shop and trying out a smattering of Dutch or enjoying an eel cob at the Wednesday market in Leiden, Holland.

My friends Emma and Ronald invited me over for almost five days holiday last week and I stayed at Ronald's house instead of a hotel. It was very nice to be in the city centre in a Dutch town house. Both Emma and Ronald made me feel very welcome. Poor Emma has recently had a cycling accident and is suffering with a broken shoulder.

I arrived mid afternoon on the Tuesday after my one hour flight from East Midlands airport and a half hour train ride from Schiphol to the main station at Leiden. Ronald's house was within five minutes walk from the station. I had been to Leiden before in October 2014 but had forgotten just how many cyclists there were on the roads. Hundreds of them!

Once I was settled in we three went for a walk through the city on this gloriously warm and sunny late Tuesday afternoon. Since coming back I had forgotten the fine details of the café we went too for tea. Emma reminded me of the following details;

Emma "It was "La Bota." You had Smoked Chicken Salad, Ronald had Spare Ribs with Garlic Sauce, and I had Chicken Satay (from the former Dutch colony Indonesia).

The Dutch is:
Gerookte Kip Salade

Spare Ribs met Knoflook Saus
Kip Saté

The side dishes were chips (frietjes) and red cabbage coleslaw (rodekool salade)

Your pudding was Apple Pie with whipped cream (Appelgebak met Slagroom)

Yes, slagroom is a word and it means whipped cream.

I had Koffie Verkeerd, which literally means "wrong coffee" because of the amount of milk. It's basically a latte. I also had Verse Munt Thee (fresh mint tea), which is a sprig of mint leaves in a glass of boiling water, something they picked up from the Moroccan immigrant population."

In the next blogpost we visit the Wednesday market where we sample kibberlings ( a battered fish snack from the Netherlands) and I try an eel cob. "Dag!"

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

A most excellent butcher at Ruddington Village Butchers.

I popped in to see the Ruddington Butcher, Stewart White, yesterday to purchase some beautiful pork chops and a delicious, rather juicy sirloin steak. Stewart must be one of the friendliest butchers in the East Midlands and the quality and price of his products are genuinely very competitive. No wonder he always has a queue out the door even on weekdays! Always there with a big smile and butchery knowledge stretching back decades, Stewart is the guy to go to when I am in need of a meaty treat for my tea.

As much as I like to chat with him and share daft butcher's tales; our chatter is often broken up by the queues he has in his shop with regular customers very keen to take advantage of his Ruddington Butcher offers. Apart from his meat products, what I like about him is his great sense of humour and his popularity is sweetly demonstrated by the collections of plastic toy farmyard animals that customers have given him since his shop opened and his business became a much needed and appreciated presence in the village. They take pride of place above his splendid displays of meat.

Ruddington village is quite a foodie collective with the excellent Glyn Thomas Greengrocer shop providing daily fresh fruit and vegetables and flowers and the ever popular Philo's Deli that sits alongside other major  supermarket food outlets like the local Co-Op store and the Sainsbury Local store. We also have cafes and two bakeries and even the Perkins family hardware shop on the High Street. Perkins can supply all your baking and culinary utensils and pretty much anything to do with home and garden maintenance. @Perkinshardware on Twitter.

You really can't go wrong with such quality outlets on your doorstep. But of course this only works when they are supported by the public. The day the independent XYZ closes is the day that the public say "But, you know... I always meant to go in there..." Thankfully the village seems to be very supportive of such indi shops as Ruddington Butchers who offer such terrific service and fresh made products with a big beaming smile.

I needed some gammon today and I noticed the A board outside Stewart's butchery shop. It was advertising 20% off Topside and Silverside this weekend and local sausage lovers will be salivating when they recognise that tomato and Worcester sauce, Bratwurst and red wine and garlic sausages are on offer presently.

As well as his more traditional pork sausage fare Stewart certainly likes to get creative with his sausages! Ooer missus! Today, I pay for my gammon, a pork pie and a hunk of cheese and make way for more of his eager customers to buy his products. Long may Stewart White and his butchery emporium reign in our village of Ruddington. It would be a truly poorer place without the joyful experience that is our Ruddington Butchers!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Cleaning sea bass, reviewing plays and making up a comedy character.

Well folks I have been a busy boy. Not only have I been doing my fishmonger's job at Tesco but I have also been out in the evenings reviewing plays mainly for my theatre website. Additionally I have been working on a new comedy character called Donald J Ducky and have been enjoying making some videos for my comedy blog. I have also been writing for Sardines magazine with a feature/interview about a musical theatre school celebrating 50 years in existence.

Back to the fishmonger's counter and here are a few pictures from my set up one day and some of my job cleaning sea bass. Enjoy.

Cleaned sea bass and tools used to clean them.


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

My entry in a comedy writing competition.

Hi there dear readers. The other day I entered my very first actual comedy writing competition. The competition is connected with a touring theatre production of Anita and Me starring Shobna Gulati and the premise is that entrants write a piece of comedy in any format relating to one of the themes of the show. There is  500 word limit. The first prize is £300.

I chose to write about the theme of racism and yes, whilst racism certainly isn't funny, some humour can be had out of exposing the bigotry and ignorance of others like Alf Garnett in Til Death Do Us Part for example.

As I like to write about food I made up a composite character called Mr Donald J Ducky based on the Nottingham accent and things I have heard people express over time about their aversion to anything foreign.

I would therefore like you to please check out my COMEDY WRITING SUBMISSION and if you like it please help me by 'liking' the pink heart next to my work. I have 40 likes so far and would love to build this to 50. I have plans to build on this character and his friends and make people laugh at their off kilter world view. I cannot reproduce the comedy writing on here because one of the rules is that it has never been published before.

Thanks for checking it out. Oh and do share this post with anyone you think might be interested in reading my comedy stuff at 60Plussitdowncomedy.

Phil Lowe

Monday, 27 February 2017

Food and theatre and an A to Z look at these two passions of mine combined.

Apologies for not being present too much of late on my food blog. I have been increasing my hours at my food related job at Tesco to bring in much needed dosh and in the meantime have been working on my professional writing and in particular on my theatre reviewing. There aren't enough hours in the day for what I like to do but my life is fun nevertheless even when the ghosts of totally totally skint rear their scary heads.

Anyway, so today is my 61st birthday and yet again I have been busy writing! This time I have been compiling a comedy piece for a competition to do with the theatre production of Anita and Me (touring). Hopefully I will win the £300 top prize. "Bostin'!"
In between time I have been writing for Sardines magazine and here is my original version of the piece I sent in. In the published piece the A-Z bit has been edited to something slightly less serious than what I originally wrote. No offence to the editor but I prefer my version re-produced here.

Phil Lowe as Kim in Festen

"The playwright Shakespeare must have known a fair amount about the world of the senses as he very often writes about the look and taste of food in his theatre works. Food and drink could be metaphors for the times he lived in, a poetic way of describing human nature and the communications of his characters or simply the enjoyable experience of eating and drinking for humans and animals writ large.

From Othello we have “Good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used.” Henry V has “I would give up all my fame for a pot of ale” and Anthony and Cleopatra go Come Dine With Us crazy with the quote “Eight wild boars roasted whole at breakfast but twelve persons there.” William Shakespeare also offers us warnings through the medium of food which some would do well to heed even today.

From The Comedy of Errors Act Five Scene One brings us the stark warning “Unquiet meals make ill digestions” and in A Midsummer Night's Dream Egeus tells his actors “... dear actors, eat no onions or garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath; and I do not doubt but to hear them say it is a sweet comedy...” Even a monster like Caliban in The Tempest must eat and in Act One Scene Two he starts off his monologue with “I must eat my dinner...” He doesn't go to say what the dinner actually is but that is theatrical licence for you!

Of course many playwrights introduce elements of food and drink in their plays. Sometimes they are the title of the play itself such as in Alan Bennett's A Chip in the Sugar. Here Bennett's clever word play gives us two food references in the title which are directly referred to in the character's monologue itself “And I looked and there was a chip in the sugar.” It this sense his character is registering disgust. Unlike in Arnold Wesker's play Chips With Everything Alan Bennett's character Graham definitely doesn't like his chip within sugar or without.

In Bennett's A Cream Cracker Under The Settee we can determine just how dangerous food can be if left just out of reach by the elderly. Bennett's ubiquitous cream cracker is almost a character in itself as it cruelly watches the old lady dying by the front door. In my humble opinion that kind of drama really takes the biscuit. However, it does get to the crunch in a mere fifty minutes. I regularly review plays and there is nothing worse than an over cooked play. I digress.

The controversial play Festen requires three actual meals for a large, violently at odds, Danish family to eat whilst falling out spectacularly over the stomach churning subject of sexual abuse within the family. A definite case of the returning son Christian seriously spilling the beans and upsetting family apple cart.

In the play Saturday, Sunday, Monday by Eduardo De Filippo the Italian family cast do virtually nothing but eat beautiful Italian food on stage and, in between family rows, speak lovingly of Italian food throughout the entire play. When it has been performed worldwide the audiences leave the theatre drooling from sensory overload. Subsequently, it has been said that Pizza restaurants close to the theatres have experienced a massive upsurge in post theatrical dining! Who says that theatre doesn't influence people? Now, who had the dough balls?

In the musical Les Misérables the cast sing of terrible hardships and near starvation. M. Thenardier rejoices in his corruption of foodstuffs he offers to his guests and if Jean Valjean hadn't gone and stolen a loaf of bread to feed his sister's family he wouldn't have gone to jail. Therefore, there would be no story to tell at all. You see, one's vitals are often vital if a play is to succeed.

The comedy/drama Toast by Richard Bean and starring Matthew Kelly on its recent UK tour is set entirely in a troubled bakery in 1975 and examines the lives of the bakers who need to get a vital part of the baking machinery working or they could potentially lose their jobs.

There has recently been a new production in York called #ChipShoptheMusical that got excellent reviews. It is always a risk with any new show and Cod forbid it could've got a critical battering.

It isn't always meat from animals that gets eaten in shows. Sometimes the flesh is an acquired taste. Two prime examples would be the lovely human flesh meat pies in Sweeney Todd and the comically horrific revelation that Mam's lover Stuart has been chopped up and eaten in Lee Hall's dark comedy drama Cooking with Elvis.

If all this is making you hungry let's look at my very tongue in cheek A to Z of plays and things theatrical that feature food and drink. Enjoy.

A: Abigail's Party – a social nightmare of 1970s food and excessive drinking.

B: The Baker's Wife by Stephen Schwartz. Could also be called Burn 'em the musical.

C: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

D: The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter.

E: A Day In The Death of Joe Egg. A cracking play.

F: “Food Glorious Food” from Oliver!

G: Grease – a vital ingredient for cake making or frying as well as a popular musical.

H: Hair. An unwanted item in foodstuffs and also musical showing plenty of flesh.

I: The Iceman Cometh – Eugene O'Neill's family drama about a fridge breaking down.

J: Jack and the Beanstalk. A pantomime which can include optional custard pies.

K: The Kitchen by Arnold Wesker.

L: Little Fish – 2003 Off Broadway show.

M: Milk and Honey – musical by Jerry Herman.

N: Noises Off – references to sardines. Someone should pick up on this. Magazine title anyone?

O: Omelette – original title of Hamlet. Changed at the last minute when they ran out of eggs and found something meaty and Danish to present.

P: Picnic by William Inge.

Q: The place leading to the toilet after too many interval drinks.

R: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry.

S: Spamalot by Eric Idle.

T: Table Manners by Alan Ayckbourn.

U: Urinetown - the musical. Not strictly food and drink but certainly an after effect.

V: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show.

W: We Will Rock Cake You. Musical about the Queen of hard core baking.

X: Exit quickly stage left – when the pre-show curry suddenly has a dire effect.

Y: York Mystery Plays – Jesus does miracles with fish and wine yet is crucified for it.

Z: Zzzz is the sound people make falling asleep at the theatre after a big meal.

There were a few others that didn't make the final choice. These are A Cookery School For Scandal, The Government Hotel Kitchen Inspector, Spotted Dick Whittington, Blood Pudding Brothers and of course The Best Little Bakehouse in Texas.

Phil Lowe

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Trout eggs. Poor man's caviar.

Recently at work on the Tesco fish counter we have been encountering the brilliantly orange eggs (roe) of the rainbow trout as we gut and clean the fish for customers. I haven't had the 'guts' to actually eat any as caviar but have been impressed by their super shiny appearance. They are like little golden jewels. There are plenty of recipes for their preparation and eating on the internet and they are often spoken of as poor man's caviar. Try Pinterest too for recipes. The ones in the image below are some I photographed from trout I gutted at work.

Generally,with most caviar type products methods of preparation vary. The female roe is harvested, rinsed to remove the egg membrane, lightly salted, drained of excess liquid then packed. Many are also pasteurised to extend their shelf life by a few months. Most eggs are soft and translucent with a salty taste and grainy texture.

The Japanese enjoy the roe of the flying fish. It is called Tobiko and the delicacy is fast gaining international recognition. Like the trout roe it is naturally golden and although the flying fish roe can be served as a stand alone dish it is most often used as a garnish to sushi.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Rick Stein's Long Weekends DVD now available.

As I wrote in an earlier post linked HERE Rick Stein's superb book supporting his very popular television series Rick Stein's Long Weekends is available to order and now so is the fantastic series on DVD. I can't wait for mine to arrive in the post!

Both can be ordered through the Amazon links (below and in the banner at the top of the blog) in this blogpost and many hours of food and travel stories via the very popular TV food presenter and cook Rick Stein can be yours to enjoy. Bordeaux, Berlin and Cadiz have to be my top favourites and the Italian ones like Bologna have given me a few new dream holiday places to think about.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Happy New Year 2017 to all my readers.

I am delighted to wish all my lovely readers a very Happy New Year for 2017. Thank you very much for reading and sharing my blog posts on Mug Of Strong Tea. This morning my stats recorded that I am now getting 13k hits a month on this blog! Wow! Thank you too to those readers who have used the Amazon link at the top of the site for their various purchases.

For those readers who aren't aware I have also been writing a comedy blog for a few months and because the content isn't always about food the comical blog posts I write don't always fit onto this foodie blog. Lots of them do link in though and this one, recently posted, is about the Groundhog Day nature of my travels to work each day. Obviously the story is exaggerated for comic effect. Click on this LINK for my funny blogpost 'Is Your Day Getting More and More Like Groundhog Day?

If you like my 60plussittdowncomedy blog style do please follow and share.

Phil x