Once again, a great time spent on my feet. This time round I spent my days leisurely strolling around. Gone are the days I fly on my feet and hyperventilate to catch all museum doors open. Now I simply enjoy the different culture which I find myself in for a few days, the different lifestyle and the habits of the pedestrian passing me by, and I fall in with each moment as it presents itself. And I still have a lot of fun..like getting lost.
I thought I knew Amsterdam by now, but I got so lost this time I almost ended up in Antwerpen! I walked for 2 hours before admitting I am lost and then spent almost another 2 to get out of my predicament and to some familiar ground. I have a good sense of direction(usually) and very rarely use a map and I have (usually) some great experiences with getting a bit lost. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of those occasions where one falls upon treasures on your lost road, on the contrary, it was a bit challenging. Maybe because it started getting dark and the streets I wandered started getting empty, or maybe because I saw so many black dogs lying outside the doors, or could it be the barred doors and windows I passed? With a dead phone battery and a very fertile imagination I continued walking. When I saw a young woman with a black Doberman on a leash, I decided this was my saving line..I followed her, not having the slightest idea where she was going, but I hoped if something happened, maybe she would unleash that black dog. I also had the good hope that she would get me to a less scarier corner. It worked. Following her brought me back to where I could at least see the church tower and I started breathing easier again.
By that time, my feet burned from wearing winter shoes my feet aren’t used to yet, I was hungry and thirsty and exhausted from visualizing the end of my life. A tiny Turkish eating corner and its beautiful young owner with her long dark black hair came to my rescue. I plonked my tired body into one of her chairs and ordered a chicken tajine with yellow rice and dried fruits and beetroot and a large glass of mint tea. That was the best meal I’ve ever had and I could see a future ahead of me again!
So, in commemoration of that wonderful reviving tajine, here is my version of it…delicious if I may say so myself..or maybe it lies in the memory..
..Tajine d’agneau(lamb tajine)..
Une pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use whichever meat you prefer, just adjust the cooking time. White meat like chicken cooks quicker than red meat like lamb and beef.
- ALWAYS brown your pieces of meat before making a stewing dish..it enhances flavor.
- Don’t drown your meat with liquid when braising. Adding a little liquid thorough the cooking time makes for a more flavorful and thicker, caramelized sauce.
- Add fruits towards the end if you want whole pieces of fruit in your meal. Adding them earlier will break up the fruit and thicken and naturally sweeten the sauce
- A tajine served the next day is even better in flavor. Just add a little water to reheat because the sauce thickens when standing.
Everybody knows Amsterdam for its tulips and canals and of course bicycles. And so, like all tourists, I also took some typical touristy shots, depicting Amsterdam in its daily habit. Of course there is much more to a buzzing city like Amsterdam apart from its colorful dress code. There is its poverty and illness, its age and constructional city problems, the crime and simply mean people, as I’ve had the misfortune of discovering.
..My soup bench and the surprise element..
But there is also the surprise element like when I was taken aback by a young man, staggering towards me and my soup on a bench(above). With a half empty bottle in his one hand and a full one in the other, he asked me in Dutch for a cigarette; I shook my head and pulled up my shoulders, suggesting I don’t understand. He switched to English and again I shrugged my shoulders. Being convinced he would understand no word of French, I answered him and satisfied with myself, I turned my attention to my soup. In perfect French, he addressed me again and even paid me an askew compliment, while holding out his hand to me in greeting. I almost swallowed my soup cup. What are the odds of a street bum speaking 3 languages fluently? Of course I had to take his sweaty hand in acknowledgement of him checkmating me in my own game.
..Pompadour chocolates and coffee..
I frequently stopped r for so,something to drink, which would be either a coffee or freshly squeezed orange juice. And it hit me how the little coffee shops differ so immensely from ours here in France. It could be anything from only one tiny table to a single wooden bench or a row of cushions. This is what I wanted to capture.
..Royal bagels and muffins..
..Greenwoods, with everything and anything..
..A single bench at LEF..
..Cushions and blankies at Kaldi..
..So many, many more coffee shops to choose from..
I skipped on museums this time, but I visited many an art gallery..some highly expensive, some interesting and some plain boring. But there is sure something for everyone. And with capturing a little of the art here in Amsterdam, I couldn’t resist being a little kitschy in introducing a bicycle sweeping by in front of my lens…now that was fun!
Of course Amsterdam isn’t Amsterdam without its bulbs. I carried somewhat heavy on my plastic bag all the way back to Coin Perdu, where they await their planting. Bulbs, bulbs and bulbs..will they grow?
..Bulbs and bulbs and bulbs..
Too soon I had to say goodbye to my new friends and head back home. But there is always the prospect of seeing them again..I wonder what experiences will await me then..
Today is Grandmothers’ day here in France. everywhere “les Mamies” were taken out to lunches, flower shops were open(normally closed on Sundays) and husbands and children walked around with small bouquets for their sweet “Mamie” I wish I had a “Mamie” who I could spoil today, but the best I could do, was join in the fun at out Cecile’s bar, “le café du Centre” in Beaulieu sur Dordogne, where everybody gathered in happy spirit for coffee and croissants!
Of course that is something just up my alley, for I adore my coffee and I adore my croissant. I’m not a very routine and organized focused person, but not a day goes by that I don’t routinely start my day with my black “café allongé, un verre d’eau, un croissant and the day’s journal, La Montagne.
..my habitual café et croissant..
And so…right there, this morning, next to mon Chéri, among our cafés and croissant crumbs, camera, lenses and writing carnets and laughter of Cecile’s clients, the idea was born for a new blog. I am up for change!
..le café du centre..
So maybe I will move over from Myfrenchkitchen to Café & croissant, which will just be about everything I encounter in my everyday life…I suppose not much different from what I’ve done on Myfrenchkitchen. and of course food is included….man can’t live on croissants alone! I am considering having only the one blog…for my art, for our coin Perdu and its country life and restoration and all things that I find brings sense to this challenging life we live. But maybe I won’t move…I will of course lose many of my readers and will have to start all over and my URL will change which is always a complicated story for all involved. But where is a will, is a way. I need to move on to something new…some new juice! The future will lead me.
I’m also leaving this week for a week or two in Hawaii with mon Chéri. All tech stuff will stay behind, except for my camera. I’m taking only my bathing suit, sketching tools and little black number…for all those dinners awaiting me! I want to switch off and indulge in nature the sun and surroundings, let my senses treat me every day. Can you tell I’m excited?
And to round off this post…I made a curry chicken tagine for dinner..
- Chicken cut into portions, browned in olive oil and madras curry. Added potatoes cut in cubes, onions cut roughly, a handful of organic dried apricots, chopped preserved lemon, a tablspoon of wild flower honey and some homemade chicken stock from the freezer. Bring to the boil and slowly simmer until you have a thick sauce and tender vegetable and chicken.
- Add some spices of your taste…I used cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper and crushed juniper berries.
- Serve with couscous.
- Bon appétit!!
On Thursday evenings I have life figure drawing class and I get home late. A vegetable tagine is always a good choice on these evenings. I make it earlier in the day and reheat it for a late dinner. I’m ravenous when I get home! Serve with a simple fluffy white rice(ok, go more heathy with full grain or wild or some other grains, but I prefer the stark whiteness of white rice ).
Vegetable tagine a la Thursday.
- Three courgettes
- Four large spring onions with the greens
- One large red bell pepper
- Four carrots
- four tomatoes
- Two potatoes
- A handful of green beans
- can of chickpeas
- A handful of petit pois(fresh or frozen)
- A cinnamon stick
- olive oil
- Cardamom pod
- Juniper berries
- Two teaspoons of curry masala
- Flatleaf parsley
- A tablespoon or two of dry roasted almonds
- About two cups of vegetable stock
- Wash and chop the vegetables into chunks.
- Mix together the spices in a mortar and pestle (except the cinnamon stick), along with some olive oil.
- Sautee the chopped onion with the spices.
- Add the carrots and potatoes and sautee for a few minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock and cinnamon stick and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and bell and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
- Add the chickpeas, green beans and and turn off the heat.
- Taste for seasoning and adjust.
- Serve in a tagine, sprinkle with the fresh petit pois, the roasted almonds and finish off with flatleaf parslay.
- Serve with white rice or couscous.
Serves 4 people
…I’ll draw, you pose…
Time for a little indulgence. Although January is a month of light eating, the desire for something more substantial and velvety arises on cold, rainy evenings. Then we take comfort in slow cooking meat meals with a voluptuous sauce, where we sit back and lick our fingers and sweep the sauce from our plates with fresh chunky bread. This is a recipe from Mariëtte Crafford’s book, Sonskynkafee(Sunshine café), a delicious book filled with stories and great recipes.
Lamb-shanks with a curry sultana sauce
- 6 small lamb-shanks with the bone cleaned and a nice helping of meat
- olive oil
- 500 ml organic chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 3 bay leaves
- a chopped onion
- a few open cardamom pods
- 3 tablespoons masala
- 5 t cumin seeds
- 5 t white mustard seeds
- 5 t black mustard seeds
- 2 garlic cloves, leaned and crushed
- a piece of ginger root, grated
- 4 tablespoons of water
- 150 ml yogurt
- 250 ml sultana raisins
- salt and pepper
- 150ml cream
- 125 ml flaked almonds
- fresh coriander/parsley leaves
Sauté the lamb-shanks in oil in a heavy based casserole until nicely browned, cover with the stock, add the lemon juice, cinnamon and bay leaves and cook uncovered until the lams begins to soften.
Sauté the onion and add to the lamb.
Mix all the spices with the 4 tablespoons of water and add to the lamb.
Season to taste.
Stir in the yogurt and add the sultana raisins. Simmer gently until the lamb is very tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened.
Stir in the cream and leave for 10 minutes to heat through.
Serve with rice in bowls, pour over some sauce and finish off with a sprinkling of flaked almonds and fresh coriander/parsley leaves.