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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Meeting some Dutch Army folk and singing "I'm A Barbie Girl." car share fashion.

I met some very interesting people during my time in Holland including Arthur van der Linden, a police officer in the Dutch police. Arthur accompanied Ronald, Emma and myself in the car all the way across Holland to Brabant where Emma was engaged to sing with the Band of Liberation. Two of the travel highlights were singing "I'm a Barbie Girl" in the car and seeing the impressive image of Rotterdam looking like a mini Manhattan on the distant horizon.

The army barracks experience was fascinating and I spoke to a real life sergeant major who reminded me of Windsor Davies from the TV show 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum' but nowhere near as funny or Welsh. Although he did appear to laugh nervously when I mentioned the French Foreign Legion. He said they were 'really really tough guys'. He looked very warm all dressed up in his uniform. At one point during the bbq lunch a big bead of sweat ran down his face.

It was a day for an army veterans reunion with HRH Prince Jaime Bernardo of Bourbon-Parma, Count of Bardi, D-day Veteran Major-General Rudi Hemmes and many more old soldiers male and female. In fact it was the  reunion of the Royal Guards Regiment of Fusiliers 'Princess Irene. My friend Emma sang two short concerts during the afternoon barbecue.

Emma talking to D-day Veteran Major-General Rudi Hemmes
Not Windsor Davies. (middle)

The Band of Liberation with Emma Brown.

The image above isn't from the army barracks but gives an impression of what the band look like all together. They are all volunteers. Images below are from the event.

Then one evening in Leiden I had the honour of meeting JJ. Jan Jaap van Weering owns the Distinguished Etiquette & Protocol Consultancy and he the author of 'Distinguished' - a book teaching etiquette that emphasises refinement and courtesy as well as sociability. The book is very popular and is on its fifth edition.

J.J was invited round to Ronald's gezellig house and upon introducing ourselves he told me of his Army background and how he knows of the Nottingham Sherwood Foresters, his love of Royalty and he turned out to be a very interesting, and interested,  pleasant guy. Emma and Ronald showed me a posh homes magazine in which there was a feature about J.J and his beautiful home full of military artefacts and old pictures. We four also shared some lekker Indonesian take away food and had a gezellig time watching (and laughing at ) the semi finals of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Previous to J.J's arrival we went to the Dirk supermarket and purchased some Dutch biers and snacks including bitterballen. I was very impressed at the huge range of Dutch and Belgian biers on offer at Dirk. A whole wall of them!!!

I don't think I have mentioned this but from my top floor bedroom window on Vendelstraat, over to the left, I could see this windmill! So Dutch! The other way was looking over these other houses.

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!"