• Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Favorite foods: kimchee and sauerkraut, chickpeas, lemon, rugbrød, Thai red curry, especially from Ocha in Binnen Bantammerstraat, Amsterdam, broodje tempe with zuur, patatje oorlog, raw carrots, walnuts, anything with lots of dill, plain whole yogurt, marzipan

I need some Romertopf clay baker advice

Thank you all so much for your advice! I've had a hectic week, but finally used it for the first time this morning for a sourdough spelt loaf. I didn't soak it, just whacked it in the oven when I turned it on. Then I left the lid on until the end. I would have taken the lid off for the last 5 minutes, as @dbcurrie suggested, but my instant read thermometer told me it was done, and the crust was actually lovely. The loaf is one of the nicest I've ever made (I'm pretty new to this kind of baking): the crust is brown and crunchy, but not tough, and the crumb is open, springy and delicate.

Next time I will soak it, as per your suggestions, and see what difference that makes. After today I'm so excited to experiment more with it! I'll let you know how I get on.

Happy Thanksgiving :D


Good sourdough recipe resource?

Hi Jenitee,
I relate to this completely! I made my first starter a few months ago and have been obsessing about sourdough ever since. The first loaf I made was from Breadtopia - the whole grain sourdough (which isn't no-kneed btw). I think it's a good one to start with, because you can watch the videos and kind of see what he's on about. That was really helpful for me, because I've always been a pretty lackluster baker, and I realised when I was about to use my starter that I didn't have a very good idea what I was aiming for at each stage of the process. If you're the same, you might like to see one of his videos.
I absolutely love the Wild Yeast blog, but the way she writes her recipes can seem kind of intimidating to a novice. Particularly if you don't own a standing mixer, which I don't. You might like to build your confidence a bit before you tackle those.
Oh and by the way, I have found it very useful to have an instant read thermometer to properly check for doneness. It can be kind of difficult to judge at first until you get a real sense of how the loaves do in your oven, your baking vessel, etc.
Happy baking :D

24 Hours in Oslo

I used to live in Oslo, but I never ate out at particularly fancy places, so these are very local, non-touristy suggestions.
For fantastic coffee, go to Tim Wendelboe. It's a 'micro roastery' at Grunnergata 1 in Grunerløkka. The coffee is absolutely wonderful, as are the cookies, and it's in a really pretty neighbourhood.
For delicious, inexpensive middle eastern food (I think the owners are Palestinian, but the menu is broader), go to Cafe Habibi at Storgata 14. Here you will find young and old, students, people on dates, families, drunk and sober, a real cross section of people. Also, sometimes belly dancers.
The Mediterranean Grill in Torggata (down the end next to Zorbas) is generally considered to have some of the best kebabs in Oslo. I always used to get the falafel and still dream about it now. But be forewarned, it is a very Norwegian take on a kebab/falafel.
Fru Hagen in Thorvald Meyersgate 40. It's a really lovely cafe with nice outdoor seating (great people watching) in Grunerløkka. They're open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the quality of their ingredients is very high for Oslo. Basic fare done very well.
For a drink in a nice, very Oslo sort of setting, go to Oslo Mekaniske Verkstad in Tøyenbekken 34. It's in an old industrial building in the Grønland neighbourhood, and is very cosy when it's cold outside!
There are lots of extremely limited supermarkets in Oslo (Kiwi, Rimi, Rema, etc.), but the best are Centra and Jacobs. Centra is in Majorstua, which is quite central, and I highly recommend it for stocking up on Norwegian staples before the end of your trip!
Have fun!

What's your favorite Indian dish?

I absolutely love beetroot pachadi, which I believe is Keralan in origin. Basically, it is delicately spiced beetroot (mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric, etc) cooked in yogurt or curds. Rather unusual and totally haunting in flavour.

I also love channa masala (curried chickpeas), and practically any Indian recipe involving aubergine.

If you get a chance to try Keralan cuisine, I really recommend it. It uses a lot of coconut, and slightly different spice combinations from the standard fare that one finds in most Indian restaurants, including toasted dal, fried curry leaves, mustard, etc.

I also want to add to the good things that have been said about Madhur Jaffrey. Every recipe I've ever made has been a gem.

No cranberries in Amsterdam, but still want the sauce

I saw some in the Natuurwinkel in Waterlooplein this morning!

No cranberries in Amsterdam, but still want the sauce

@ Lower Yeast Side, they are also sometimes just called cranberry, so look out for both. Dutch cranberries are grown in Terschelling, and you can get natural Terchelling cranberry juice in a few different levels of sweetness. It's really fantastic, although not inexpensive. If all else fails, you could order cranberry juice and also preserves online:
But really Natuurwinkel is probably your quickest and closest option.

No cranberries in Amsterdam, but still want the sauce

I have never tried to buy cranberries (called veenbessen in Dutch), but they absolutely do have them here in Amsterdam - in fact, they are even grown in the Netherlands. You have missed the farmers markets in Nieuwmarkt and Noordermarkt for this week, or I would have suggested trying one of them. Maybe you should try going to Natuurwinkel? The one in Waterlooplein has a fairly large produce section, they definitely have them in the form of jam, and they also might have them frozen. Otherwise, you can buy unsweetened cranberry juice many places (definitely in Natuurwinkel), and maybe you could use it in combination with red currants (rode bosbes). Lingonberries are not so easy to find, but currants are everywhere.
Good luck and don't despair. You may not find them fresh, but with a bit of perseverance you will find them in a jar.

What would you eat if you couldn't chew for a week?

@howtoeateverything, on consideration I really can't stress enough the importance of making sure you're getting plenty of protein. The thing is, most liquid foods don't have much, and it is so easy to get too little and feel really weak, which in turn slows your recovery. Also, good fat. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but I was tempted to answer the fat/calories question with lots of (melted) ice cream, which in retrospect wasn't a great idea because it's kind of nutritionally barren. Avocado, nut butters, spoons of hummus straight from the container - those were the things that really made me start to feel better physically.

Good luck with the recovery. I hope you start to feel better soon!

What would you eat if you couldn't chew for a week?

Ah, I know the dilemma well. I broke my jaw in March and had to be on a liquid diet for six weeks. Even after the six weeks were over, I had to ease back into eating solids very, very slowly, and still now my jaw does not function like it used to.

For the first week I ate a lot of blended soups (it was cold and I felt extremely ill). Tomato-lentil, chickpea-spinach, etc. I lost weight very quickly and got weak, so I decided that I needed to up the nutrients and especially the fat. I started blending full fat yogurt with berries for breakfast. It was wonderful, and one of the few things I'm still doing. I also started making things like peanut soup (a vegetarian version of the Surinamese dish), and daal with lots of ghee. I ate a lot of quinoa porridge and I would have spoons of almond butter or mashed avocado for a snack. Once, I am embarrassed to admit, I was craving ketchup to such an extent that I made mashed potatoes and ate them with ketchup on them. It was totally disgusting and not something that I repeated.

Here's what I missed: RAW VEGETABLES!!!! Crunchy salads and things like that. Also, food made by someone other than me. For six whole weeks it was basically impossible to get takeaway or go to a restaurant. I don't normally do those things much, but I really missed it when I couldn't. Also, chocolate. Sigh.

My first non liquid meal after six weeks was a Thai red curry with tofu at my local Thai place. It was delicious but terrifying after such a long time eating pastes through a straw and with a tiny child-sized spoon. It was also not helped by the fact that two seconds in I ate a very hot chili and spent the entire time coughing desperately. Still, it was nice to get back in the saddle, food-wise. And I can assure you that in the intervening months, my immersion blender has been gathering dust in the cupboard under the sink!

Vegetarian in Amsterdam

Definitely get Indonesian food - many places here do vegetarian rijsttafels, so that shouldn't be a problem. I always go to the Indonesian restaurant in Overtoom, just above the intersection with Bilderdijkstraat. I'm blanking on the name, but it's reasonably priced and the veggie rijsttafel is good.

There is a lot of great Thai food in Amsterdam. Thai Deum in Ceintuurbaan (de Pijp) is really good and not expensive. Bird in Zeedijk (red light district) also does wonderful Thai.

Make sure to go into one of the many Surinamese snackbars that you will see around the city. They generally have lots of interesting vegetarian options, but I always get a broodje tempeh, which is a sandwich filled with spicy tempeh (make sure to ask for zuur - sour pickled vegetables), sometimes with sambal, sometimes not. I cannot recommend this highly enough, it is absolutely delicious.

Since your name, PeanutButter, indicates a love of peanut butter :), you have to get your frites with not just mayonnaise but also peanut sauce and chopped raw onion. This combo is called patatje oorlog, and although it sounds weird, it's actually inspired. Trust me on this.

The weather here isn't meant to be that great over the next few days, but if it turns out to be nice (the forecast changes constantly) it's always nice to browse the food stalls in the Albert Cuypmarkt, buy some nice breads and cheeses, and then go sit in Sarphatipark and watch the people. There is a Gall & Gall wine shop on the corner of Sarphatipark and Eerste van der Helststraat, where you can buy a bottle or two to go with your breads and cheeses.

Have fun :)

"Fake" Danish Aeble Kage?

but of course what you described is nothing like æbleskiver :-)

"Fake" Danish Aeble Kage?

Hi CuocoECanto,
Well, I used to live in Denmark (as a teenager) and now live in Norway, and I've been thinking about this question all afternoon. All I can say is that while I don't remember ever being served this, it sounds completely plausible as a Danish dessert. Also asked my Norwegian partner who has spent a lot of time in Denmark, and he couldn't remember it either, but agreed that it was absolutely a possibility.
Sorry I don't know for sure. I'll ask around over the upcoming days.

Anybody a Freegan?

I know a few freegans. And also, Giles Coren did a segment about it on the British programme 'The F Word,' in which he demonstrates that it's not actually disgusting - supermarkets throw away plenty of good food every day, and people who are serious freegans know where to go for reliably fresh food. Some freegans are proper vegans, and some will only eat meat/dairy/etc. that they have obtained for free.

Another baking with chocolate question

Thank you so much, everyone, for these great ideas. I can't tell you how helpful it is (I've been thinking about brownies for a week now!)

@lemons: I'm in Oslo, Norway. Norwegian baking doesn't involve much chocolate, and I have yet to see any baking chocolate here. Actually, that's just the tip of the iceberg as far as what I haven't seen here. Many of the ingredients discussed on Serious Eats are completely out of reach for me.

Spelt help

Spelt is a species of wheat (and it contains wheat gluten). However, some people who have problems digesting normal wheat are able to eat spelt. It is nutty and delicious, although spelt bread is generally denser than normal wheat bread. I also use it (in combination with buckwheat and millet flours) to make fantastic pizza dough. Long live spelt!

Cooking with mustard

I love it with salmon - I sometimes smear a little onto the filets before I whack them into the oven. Also, gravlaks with mustard-dill sauce is one of life's great pleasures. I use mustard seeds quite a lot as well, always the small, brown kind. I love their nutty flavour, and the way they pop and sputter in the pan. Oh, and obviously it's not the same, but I could happily eat mustard greens every single day!

Why Do McCain's People Need to Hate On Arugula?

Maybe if Americans referred to arugula as 'rocket,' as the British do, it would sound a bit more butch (and even kind of militaristic and hawkish) and then John McCain would stage photo ops with it.

A Horse is a Horse, of Course of Course... How About Dinner?

I don't really eat meat, so I haven't tried it, but I have certainly been present when horse meat was being served. In the Netherlands it's pretty common, and I have friends who eat it and who say it's good. It doesn't strike me as being particularly odd, but then, my local supermarket stocks whale meat and reindeer, so perhaps my novelty threshold is a bit high.

Sounds gross in theory, is actually good in practice...

@sfgoo, I know, this is why you should cultivate some Swedish friends, particularly ones who were born in the early 70's and view this as nostalgia food rather than a national embarassment. Otherwise, google flygande jacob and you will find many identical recipes online (which I did because I couldn't believe that this was an actual dish). The pictures that come up in google images are the most accurate food photography I've ever seen, lol.

Sounds gross in theory, is actually good in practice...

Ok, well, I was just in Sweden for a weekend (Gøteborg on the west coast), and I went to a dinner party in the suburbs and was given a classic Swedish 70's dish called 'Flygande Jacob' - Flying Jacob. I never would have eaten it except to be polite. Here's what it was: a casserole with shredded chicken meat and sliced bananas, slathered with whipped cream mixed with Heinz chili sauce, the top scattered with bacon and salted peanuts, and then the whole thing baked in the oven for 30 minutes. Result: delicious. Ok, now that I've told you I'm going to hang my head in shame.

White Pepper

I hate it too. I think it tastes rancid.

popsicles, drumsticks, and ice cream sandwiches... oh my!

Funny, it would never occur to me to want any of those things to cool down. The heat always makes me feel very ill, so all I want is a glass of ice water (tap!) and a cold compress.

chick peas - main dish ideas required

@sadiepix - just looked it up, and it's actually called 'World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking' - a clunky name for a fantastic book. It's one of the few cookbooks that I have that I've actually made recipes from, and every one has been a gem.

chick peas - main dish ideas required

@sadiepix - did you get the recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's Vegetarian Foods of the East book? She gives a recipe in it for, I think, her mother's chickpeas (inspired, she says, by Delhi street food) which is basically the same. I agree - those chickpeas are fantastically addictive! I sometimes use tamarind instead of the amchoor.

chick peas - main dish ideas required

I cook chickpeas in lots of different ways, but this slightly unusual recipe is the one people always ask for. It's good with pita bread and yogurt, and sometimes I add some red pepper flakes when I want something a bit spicier.

Chickpeas and Apricots

olive oil
1 bay leaf, broken in half
1 cinnamon stick
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 small tin tomatoes
1 cup chopped dried apricots
2 large tins chickpeas
lemon juice
fresh mint

In a pan over medium heat, dry fry the cumin seeds until their aroma rises and they are nice and toasted. Set aside. In the oil, sauté the bay leaf and cinnamon stick until the cinnamon stick begins to uncurl. Add the onion and continue to cook until the onion is brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the cumin seeds and cook a minute more, until the aroma rises. Now add the tomatoes and incorporate them well into the onion mixture. Add the apricots and chickpeas, along with a little water. Cook, partly covered, until the apricots are melty and the stew is very thick. Season with salt and pepper and some lemon juice, and stir through a few handfuls of chopped mint.

I need some Romertopf clay baker advice

Hi Serious Eaters,

I just got a Romertopf clay baker (the 4 person one) and I have some questions that I'm hoping you can help me with. First, I am going to use it primarily for bread, and I am wondering, do I need to soak it before bread in it? The instruction manual seems to indicate that I do, but I've never heard anyone mention soaking before in conjunction with baking bread in terracotta, so I'm a bit confused.

Also, I know you're not supposed to use soap to clean them. Have you found any method that is particularly effective? Is water really enough? Do you ever use baking soda?

And finally, do you have any great recipes for other things to make in a clay baker? I am a vegetarian, so I won't be roasting meat in it, but I'd love to find some other uses for it, so I'd appreciate any ideas you have. I'm a complete novice at clay baking, so no tip is too small!

Thank you so much for any insight you can give!

Another baking with chocolate question

Like therealchiffonade, I too have a chocolate question:

What do you do when a recipe calls for unsweetened baking chocolate, but you can only get bittersweet? Does anyone have a relatively reliable approach to substitution, reducing the sugar, etc? I ask because I don't think unsweetened baking chocolate is available where I live (I can get 85%, I think), but I still want to make brownies, etc. that have good consistency but aren't horribly sweet.

Thanks for any suggestions!

Indonesian ingredients?

I'm on holiday in New York City at the moment and would really like to make some Indonesian food. Do any of you Serious Eaters know where I can find Indonesian ingredients (kecap manis, sambal oelek, terasi, galanga, etc.)? I wouldn't mind ordering online, as long as it arrived promptly and didn't cost the earth.

Thanks for any ideas.

How do you celebrate your birthday?

My birthday is next week (29), and I can't decide what to do for it, but I want to do something fun because my last birthday was really depressing. Do you have food-related birthday traditions? Do you go out to dinner? Do you make yourself a cake? Do you go on a pub crawl? Do your loved ones bring you breakfast in bed? Or do you lie in bed and eat chocolates and pretend the whole thing isn't happening?
Give me inspiration!

Are you a traditionalist?

It can be nice to experiment in the kitchen, but everyone has some beloved dishes which they feel can only be made in one way, and with which no one is allowed to tamper.

I don't want any wierd spices in my fish pie (a friend recently suggested the inclusion of ginger), and my boyfriend would rather poke out his own eyes than see a variation on the sacred combination of poached salmon, potato salad and sliced cucumbers.

What dishes turn you into a traditionalist?

Rainy day food?

Here in London it is cold and wet, and it's only going to get colder and wetter. In fact, I currently have the heating on, and am wearing woollen socks. I have exhausted all of my rainy day food ideas, and now I need some inspiration. What do you make on a cold, rainy day (that is, if all of you in the midst of a warm American summer can recall what such a thing feels like)?

School Food!

Were you served lunch at school? Did you brown bag it? Did you go home for lunch?

I was served lunch at school, and it was vile. We ate 'family style,' there was no choice (although at some point they began providing jelly sandwiches for vegetarians - occasionally, when they ran out of the other kinds, with MINT jelly), there was no standard of nutrition, and lunch was viewed as a punishment by one and all. Thinking about it still makes me cringe.

What about you?

Question of the Day: What's your earliest food-related memory?

I particularly remember being fed Chinese takeaway beef with broccoli by my father, and also eating tinned fruit cocktail with maraschino cherries at preschool. In both of these memories, I must have been about two and a half years old (for timeframe, think late '70s).

What early food-related memories do you have?

What was your worst instance of culinary hubris or misjudgement?

Here's mine: I was a vegan at the time, and I had got into the habit of making 'pizza' with a toppinng of vegetables, covered with this 'cheese-like' combination of silken tofu and nutritional yeast wizzed together in the blender. It wasn't great - in fact, it was pretty revolting - but it broke up the tedium. (I will add here, as if it needed to be pointed out, that at the time I was cooking for one. Otherwise, I'd never have got away with it.)
Anyway, this tofu-nutritional yeast combo would have been merely a blip in my record of relatively sound food-related judgement, were it not for the fateful day that I went to the farmer's market and returned with a large celeriac. When I got it home, I was wracking my brain for something unusual to do with it, and I hit upon the misguided notion that it would be really delicious to make a kind of celeriac au gratin with the aforementioned tofu/yeast combo as the topping. I spent an hour lovingly slicing the celeriac, braising it (or something) and arranging it in a little pyrex dish. Then I spred the odious combo on top, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and popped it into the oven.
What emerged tasted like drinking rainwater out of a rusty bucket. It was so revolting that I've never been able to eat celeriac again - it's flavour is, for me, indistinguishable from the flavour of nutritional yeast.

Ok, that's mine. I'm not proud, but I feel a little better for having told you. What's yours?

Why won't my dried beans cook evenly?

I always soak them for the required amount of time. I never salt them until the end. I have tried with limas, black beans, kidney beans, cannellinis, black eyed peas and countless others. They always cook unevenly, and the skins are always horribly tough. Even lentils routinely let me down! What am I doing wrong?

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