Last September, after talks with the editor of the UK, the newspaper of the University of Groningen, I started writing a fortnightly food column for them. I suggested we call this column “The Epicurean”, she agreed, and the first piece was published on September 16th, 2011. Today, after a year’s worth of columns, I decided it was time for a refresh of the design of the Epicurean page on this site. Have a look.
The first apartment I lived in in Groningen had no oven. No, I don’t understand it either, but it’s not that unusual for a Dutch rental property to come with no oven or space for an oven, should the tenant wish to bring their own. For two years I roasted my chickens, legs of lamb, and occasional eggplant in a dinky little combination microwave and convection oven.
A good risotto is an exercise in balanced simplicity. A few simple ingredients are transformed into an unctuous dish; creaminess countered by a hint of acidity, richness balanced with clean flavours. The key player in this symphony is, of course, the rice. Two varieties are typically used in risotti, Arborio and Carnaroli. Both can be found at Basarz, the Italian deli on the Vismarkt. The short, starchy grains absorb liquid readily and become creamy as they are stirred frequently over the 20-25 minutes of cooking time.
Fish curry was on my mind yesterday. I’ve had a cold for the past few days and I was craving for something spicy, but light and refreshing. I was reminded of a dish I used to order at my favourite Indian restaurant in Berkeley. The dish was called methi machi and its sauce is based on fenugreek leaves, methi in Hindi. I did not have any fenugreek leaves, so I adapted the recipe a bit, but if you find some (perhaps at Toko Melati on Gedempte Zuiderdiep, or the Amazing Oriental on Korreweg), add 4 tablespoons in the sauce, with the tomatoes.
Thanksgiving was never my favourite holiday when I lived in the United States, but it turns out it’s the one I miss the most. Every Thanksgiving, around noon, my wife and I would cruise to our adopted family’s house, knowing to expect a memorable day. The house, crowded with people of all ages (not to mention a few dogs), would have this buzzing atmosphere as everyone was merrily finishing bottle after bottle of wine, while preparing a vast amount of food; more food than really necessary, but absolutely essential to the day. Yes, it’s true, gluttony did not die with the Roman empire, it merely changed clothes.
Wild mushrooms are a wonderful treat, when you can find them. Since foraging for them is not an option for most of us, we are lucky to be able to buy them at the market throughout the year. Autumn is traditionally the main mushroom season, but there are also spring varieties (like morels), varieties that grow year-round, as well as cultivated varieties, so there is always the opportunity to cook with them.