Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Spaghetti with Smoked Mackerel and Old Amsterdam

I found this recipe in a Dutch magazine (Allerhande from the AH). This is a recipe from a Dutch 3 Michelin star chef ( Jonnie Boer, De Librije). It's not something he serves in the restaurant but something they cook at home regularly. I thought this was a very simple, 'pure' tasting spaghetti (cheap as well). My cat definitely went crazy because of it!

Recipe (serves 4)
1 large-ish smoked mackerel (350g)
300g spaghetti
20g fresh parsley, leaves finely chopped (throw away stems)
4 large 'trostomaten' (photo here: Trostomaat ), deseed and chopped finely
2 limes
1 clove garlic,finely chopped
2 shallots,finely chopped
2 small leeks, finely sliced
pepper to taste
olive oil
Old Amsterdam (or any old Gouda) to taste

1) Boil the spaghetti until al denté. When done, let some cold water run over them so as to stop the cooking process.
2) Scrape the meat off the fish. Get rid of the skin, bones, head and tail.
3) Sauté the shallots, garlic and leeks in some olive oil for around 4 minutes. Then add the spaghetti, pepper and the juice of 1 lime. Mix for 1-2 minutes.
4) Then, add the mackerel flakes, chopped tomatos and parsley. Stir again.
5) Serve with Old Amsterdam cheese and a quater of a lemon.

This is quite a plain-tasting pasta dish so the Old Amsterdam cheese will help:)

Monday, 29 March 2010


Bobotie is a minced beef oven dish with Malay influence from South Africa. I was introduced to it by Dutchman, who often cooks this (out of a Knorr packet) when it's his turn in the kitchen.This time, I thought I'd make it "from scratch".


500g mince beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
200ml milk
2 slices brown bread (without crusts)
45g powdered English oxtail soup
1/2 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 tablespoon apricot jam
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon mustard
handful of raisins
large knob of butter

1) Soak the bread in 70ml of the milk.
2) Sauté the onion with the butter until soft. Then, add the mince, bread, ginger and curry powder.
3) When the mince is almost done, add raisins and the jam. Mix and then add the powdered English Oxtail soup. After around 5 minutes, season with pepper to taste.
4) Whilst waiting, use a fork to mix the egg and the leftover milk. Add mustard, turmeric, salt and pepper (to taste). Throw half of the mixture into the mince(turn off the heat before that) and mix.
5) Scoop the mince into an oven dish and flatten it. Try to make it as even as possible and pour the leftover egg mixture on top. Finally, put it in a 180 C oven for about 30 minutes.

I served it with basmati rice.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Yum yum yum! Calling it "Butternut Squash Lasagna" is probably false advertising -there's barely any butternut squash in there heh.


1 butternut squash, chopped into 1cm cubes
1 chicken breast, sliced/chopped into small pieces
lasagna sheets, fresh or dried
100g Parmagiano Reggiano cheese
500g spinach
generous sprinkling of nutmeg
knob of butter
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

For the tomato sauce
if you live in Holland, the Grand Italia Sugocasa Erbe will do. Just add 1 chopped onion and 1 garlic clove.  If not:

1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons sugar
small bunch basil leaves, optional
salt & pepper to taste

Bechamel sauce
Again, the Grand Italia Bechamel sauce is fine. To make your own:

1/2 liter full cream milk (volle melk in Dutch)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
6 pepercorns
50g butter
50g plain flour

1) Toss the squash and chicken with some olive oil and put them into a pre-warmed oven (180 C) for about 30 minutes.

2) In the meantime, make the tomato sauce. If you have access to Grand Italia's Sugocasa Erbe (BTW, I am NOT advertising for Grand Italia- that's just the brand I usually use when I'm lazy), heat up the sauce together with 1 onion, chopped and  1 garlic clove, chopped. Leave it to simmer for around 15 minutes.

If you're making the sauce from scratch, saute onion until soft in some olive oil. Then, add the celery and garlic. Finally, add the tomatoes and sugar and leave it to simmer for about 30 minutes. When done, you can add as much salt & pepper as you want.

3)  Wash spinach and throw them into a wok (no oil. I use the wok because 500g of fresh spinach will not fit any of my saucepans). Toss them around so that all the leaves will be in contact with the heat. When all the leaves have wilted (about 5 minutes), turn off the heat. Leave it to cool for about 20 minutes or until they're cool enough to touch.

When they are, squeeze the spinach (there will be lots of water) and chopp finely. Toss the spinach with the melted butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

4) Again, the Bechamel sauce by Grand Italia is good enough. If you want to make your own, mix the milk, peppercorns, bay leave  and onion in a pan and bring it to a boil Turn off the heat and leave it for 5 minutes. Then strain the mixture into another pan. Add the flour and butter and whisk over gentle heat. You should have a smooth, thick sauce.

5) To assemble, start with half of the chicken+butternut squash mixture (bottom layer). Then add 1/2 of the tomato sauce mixture, followed by some lasagna sheets (to make one single but large layer). Next is the Bechamel sauce and on top of that, 1/2 of the spinach. Grate half the cheese.

After that, put another layer of lasagna sheets, butternut squash+chicken, tomato sauce and then lasagna sheets again. Finally, spread the leftover Bechamel sauce and cover with the other half of the cheese (also grated).

6) Bake at 200 C for 30-35 minutes



Not me!

I'm a procrastinator at heart. Have exams this week and as usual, I'm doing everything but studying. I haven't lifted up a book, much less actually actually going through it. And I should.

But of course, it's me. So I'm cooking, baking, shopping, having countless Law&Order and Ghost Whisperer marathons.

 Flowers of the week: tulips again. Different variety (more petals)

Weather's not so good again. Which is fine. We've been drinking too much rosé and I don't think that's very healthy. On another note, there's something wrong with my iPhone (or the cable) so I have to live without my best friend for 2 weeks. TWO weeks is a long time to not have portable internet. No more Pigrush, no more being lost (Google Maps), no more convenient weather checking whilst dressing. I miss it:(

The apple pie I baked today! Dutchman (a.k.a. Apple Pie Expert) gave it the thumbs-up. Crust was a little difficult to work it and I didn't have enough (or so I thought) so it was very thin. I was pretty sure it'd collapse but the thing just grew and grew during the baking process and it's quite sturdy now.

Til next time, bye!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

I Love Spring

Blueberry Muffins, ugly but tasty. Don't think my European friends are all that familiar with blueberry muffins because 2 of them asked (on separate occasions) if there was marijuana inside (before they ate them)...

Had the oddest (for me anyway) 2-hour drinking session with my friend and 2 teachers yesterday. My friend and I stopped by the college pub for a drink after a meeting and one of our teachers asked if he could join us. The other came later. I think that's the difference with Malaysia. Malaysian teachers would never join us for a beer (generally, teachers aren't even encouraged to smoke in front of students and have such frank non-school related subjects.. I mean , it even included sex (not in a gross way). Anyway, my friend and I had quite a good time and we finished off with bad sushi at the local fake Japanese All-You-Can-Eat joint. 

Had dinner out with the Dutchman today to 'celebrate'(ok, honestly I was just too lazy to cook la) the first day we're eating al fresco in Holland this year. We were too lazy to walk far so we decided to try Cafe Mahler at the Velperplein. It's really reasonable! Our bill was only 31 euro!! 

Zeewolf (kind of fish, have no idea what it's called in English) with Shiitake sauce on a bed of roast vegetables. Frites on the side

 Dutchman ordered Chicken Saté 

Monday, 22 March 2010


Tulips- one of my favourite flowers

 Rodekool Schotel (Red cabbage casserole)

Tonight's dinner

The Netherlands & Immigration

After the European Court ruled that the Dutch Immigration policies are not in line with the EU Constitution, the Dutch government recently lowered the requirements. While I do support it (after all, the law is the law and Holland has to comply as a member of the EU), a part of me wishes the requirements were higher.

The Dutch partner bears most of the burden during the application process. Prior to the recent change, the Dutch partner would need:

i) to earn a minimum of around €1550 nett (this is around €2100 gross) per month. This is 120% of the minimum wage and while it is not a lot of money, this pretty much excludes anyone without a degree, fresh graduates, teachers, nurses and so on.

ii) a minimum one year working contract on the date of application. This is a bigger problem. Permanent contracts are harder to get here, due to the strict Dutch employment laws which make it very difficult for a permanent employee to get fired. Also, this excludes freelancers, businessmen and so forth (even if they make €30 000 a month). That said, anyone who can prove they have earned the €1550 every single month for the last 3 years can still apply for the visa.

iii) and a few other minor documents, declarations (must guarantee to support partner and is liable for damages caused by partner up to a maximum of X). The 2 requirements above are the major hurdles for some couples.

Dutchman and I were lucky that he got a job with the necessary salary and a permanent contract, straight out of college. Our application was approved in 4 weeks (which was a major surprise for us as 4 weeks back then was considered very, very short).

Now that the rules have changed, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Yes, I believe families have a right to be together. Yes, it is sad when a parent is separated from the kids, just because he/she does not fulfill the requirements. A very selfish part of me liked the requirements because I hate being lumped together with all the other uneducated immigrants (because I get so annoyed when Dutch people patronize me with this , that it is so easy to get a foreign partner here and that all these foreign partners go on welfare etc.). Also, I believe that the minimum wage (around €1400 before taxes) is just not enough to support a family. Even €1550 nett is not a lot. That said, there are families (fully Dutch, foreign or partly Dutch) surviving on that.

Yes, this entire post does not make sense. I did say I have mixed feelings!


Dutchman surprised me with a present yesterday. He's going to take me to Bruges in April. He says he's not a romantic person but wanted to do things like that once in a while because I deserve it *melts inside*.

 Photo of Bruges taken from: Bed & Breakfast Guider Benelux

That's our hotel:  Kempinski Hotel Dukes Palace
*Photo taken from Independent.co.uk

Can't wait!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Mysterious Case of My Missing Boots

Spring is here and I thought I would have a special spring outfit for today. I'd been looking for some casual brown boots to match my new bag.

It was hard looking for a pair I actualy wanted to wear- the quality was either too low or the price was too high. Finally, I settled on a pair from Esprit, which were retailing at 50% off (winter is over after all).

I ordered it over a week ago and it was due to arrive on Monday or Tuesday, but it never did. So yesterday, I entered the code into TNT track&trace, only to see that it HAD been delivered 0_0. Not dropped off, not TRIED to deliver but no one was home, but simply "The package has been delivered". Then, I checked the signature and it was received by someone called "JAN". 
Who the fuck is Jan? Where the fuck are my boots?! Worse, WHY do I have to fix this mess?! And if I don't pay within 14 days, who knows if the company will send the debt collecting agency to me (happens quite often here) which is going to be a real pain in the arse to clear up (calling = a long wait and every minute costs like 1 euro- not to mention having to scream at those people who won't believe you because they face a lot of iritating people everyday). 

I called up TNT who were nice enough and they said that my package should have never been delivered to my neighbour (if they DID deliver to my neighbour, they should have left a note in my mailbox but I never got anything) as it has to be signed by only ME. They said they would launch an 'investigation' (sounds cooler than it is, of course heh) and call me back within 4 hours. I just got a call from someone a few minutes ago saying that they have launched an investigation and that they would get back to me as soon as they know something. 

Let's see if my boots turn up soon and that this tiny administrative mess over a pathetic pair of boots will be solved soon...

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Easy Banana Pudding

Adapted from BBC Good Food, UK Edition, April 2010

100g unsalted butter
2 ripe bananas, large (great when you have leftover bananas like I did!)
2 eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla essence/extract
120g light brown sugar
100g self-raising flour
2 tbsp milk

1. Microwave the butter until melted (about 50 seconds, 900w).
2. When melted, add 1 and a half bananas and mash it into the butter. Then, add the sugar, flour, vanilla, eggs, cinnamon and milk. Mix well.
3. Top the pudding with slices from the leftover 1/2 banana.
4. Microwave at 900w for about 10 minutes.

Serve warm, with ice cream (I used rum & raisin) and icing sugar (optional). 

Friday, 12 March 2010


The longer I live here, the more unsure I am about calling this not-so-new country, my home. I didn't think so for the first 2 years and then in my 3rd year, I thought hmm..well, it could be after a while... 4 years on and I have decided that I'm done.

There's nothing wrong with The Netherlands. I like how easygoing working life is, I enjoy being an employee here and I admire how much help the unemployed, the physically/mentally challenged  and poor people receive from the government. Tertiary education is made available to everyone (pretty much for free as tuition is 1600 euros per year but student receive a minimum of 250 euro per month) and pressure to succeed is so much lesser than back home.


This is not my home. I have come to the conclusion that at the end of the day, it's the people who matter. People surrounding me in Malaysia are so nice to me. I don't know and I can't explain why but everytime I go back, I realize it again. The Dutchman agrees (they are nice to him too). Here, while I do have friends (both Dutch and foreign- Dutchman and I have separate friends) and a 'family' (ie. Dutchman's), it doesn't feel 'natural'. Thing is, this probably isn't their fault. They are nice enough. I think it's just a case of being used to 'better'.

Maybe I'm just tired of feeling patronized upon ( many Dutch people always think my life here is so much better because I'm from a 3rd world country). Or maybe, I'm a capitalist at heart. It's difficult to be motivated when the rewards are so little. Maybe I'm just bored and am itching to move to a different country.

Maybe I just miss my life back home (temporarily).

Maybe the grass is just greener on the other side of the fence.

It could also be a case of PMS.

In any event, I can't do much until I graduate. Dutchman (who loves everything Dutch and at one point, wanted to live here forever and ever) says he wants to live in Malaysia as well (he initiated the discussion!). Obviously this is something we'll have to think through and we'll only do it if the right opportunities are available. After all, moving to Malaysia will probably mean a pretty large paycut (euro-RM) and while we don't mind that, we would like to have a better quality life there (if not, what's the point of moving) so we either have to win the lottery or get really good jobs! Luckily, the Dutchman has some pretty niche skills so that shouldn't be too hard.

In the meantime, Prague will be a nice distraction;)

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Dinner at a Michelin Star Restaurant

We had a lovely dinner at the Schultenhues last week. We went there for the first time last year and while the food was better then, the atmosphere was a little strained. This time, they seem to have toned down the "pfaffness" and the fact that we were a table of 6 probably helped as well!

Despite taking pictures of every course, about half of my pictures are missing -probably because I used a different iPhone app which required me to actively save a picture as opposed to the normal "Camera" app which saves every photo you take automatically!

We started with beautifully made amusé s- squid and mushroom macarons, kroepoe of carrot and sauerkraut and onion madelaines (aperitifs were cava and wines. Later realized I should've ordered champagne since the Moet was cheap. The Dom Perignon was retailing at 30 euro per flute). Then, we were served a foamy sort of horseradish on a small bed of beetroot.

First course
Freshwater Eel (Paling) ,2 ways. Photo above is the terrine with lardo. The 2nd picture wasn't saved- that was a perfectly round tomato-ey eel. Very pretty, very fresh and yummy. 

Second Course

Red Mullet with I don't know what (really should take notes next time!). It was tasty. (Accompanied by Saumur Loire)

Third Course (main)

Wild Duck from the National Park with some beeroot-ish sides. Again, very tasty and pretty looking. We ate it with a "Arco di Giovi merlot & corvina",which went very well with the duck.

This is only half of the dessert! The other picture disappeared as well:/ Dessert was a lemon melisse soufflé with a lemony vanilla sorbet and some pistachio-y uhm creation. 
All in all, the dinner was good and not too expensive (150 euro per couple). The food last year was much better (was also more fitting to spring) but it wasn't bad at all this time. Our guests were very happy and would like to go there again. The only disappointment was not getting any "friandises" with our coffee/tea. On our last visit there, we'd received a beautiful and very interesting array of friandises. That was one of my favourite parts of the meal ( honestly, we had no idea what we were supposed to do with those things but we slowly figured it out and it was definitely different yet delicious).  We thought the lack of anything to go with the coffee wasn't quite fitting for a Michelin star restaurant but hey, can't complain he. 

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Busy Again

It's weird. I'm not usually this busy but I am somehow, inundated with homework, assignments, meetings and work this semester.
Last week's flowers (purple and white tulips)

Banana Muffins


This week's flowers (narcissus). They don't look very nice in the picture but they really brighten up your home.
I should probably do some homework now instead of blogging further...