Sunday, March 16, 2008

Happenings In My Life


First of all, I sincerely apologize for my absence! I've been very busy at the moment doing a lot of writing while at the same time trying to get my business off to a productive start. Last weekend I had the pleasure to conduct my first official Mijn Zoete Leven culinary walk in Amsterdam. We visited some wonderful delicatessens and bakeries, tasted bread, cheese, ham and chocolate, talked about olive oils and mustards, and ended our walk at the farmers' market where I showed the participants a selection of stalls and told them all about what's in season at the moment. Once again, I want to thank the shopkeepers who took the time to tell us a little something about their products or who gave us a taste of something delicious- especially Hollandaluz, Caulils, Unlimited Delicious and Vlaamsch Broodhuys.

Aside from that, I've also been doing a little redecorating at home, mostly around the kitchen. Nothing big- added some new cabinet handles, bought some lovely antique plates and utensils (I adore things with a history in the kitchen) and yesterday we purchased a beautiful wooden cabinet where I am displaying some of my favorite plates and glasses. We treated ourselves to a gorgeous porcelain multi- tiered bon bon dish and two beautiful antique- looking wine glasses, just for the two of us. My wonderful husband also surprised me yesterday by taking me into a cooking store and buying me a new Jamie Oliver Italian Series frying pan! He even added a bag of pink and green marshmallows (my secret addiction) for good measure! And speaking of new kitchenware- I also got the red Le Creuset Tarte Tatin pan I had been lusting after! It was my birthday present!

On the cooking front, things are busy! Actually I am going to keep it short because I am hosting a six course French dinner tonight- complete with Kir Royales, gougères and lots of Burgundy! I started marinating the meat for the Boeuf Bourguignon Friday night, cooked it yesterday and am finishing it off with the mushrooms and pearl onions today. We're in for a treat! But before signing off, let me tell you about something completely different- Jamie Oliver's "Cheeky Chilli- pepper Chutney". I made this one last Friday, simply because I had a bunch of chillies I needed to use up. It was really amazing, quite mild and just a teeny bit sweet. The recipe comes from one of my favorite Jamie books- Jamie at Home. Give the chutney a go sometime!

Ok, off to get ready for that dinner party! Here's the recipe for the chutney:

Makes about 500g

Ingredients

  • 8-10 fresh red chillies
  • 8 ripe red peppers
  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, peeled and chopped
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • A 5cm piece of cinnamon stick
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 150ml balsamic vinegar

Method: How to make cheeky chilli-pepper chutney

Step 1 If you want your chutney to last for a while, make sure you have some small sterilized jars ready to go. Place your chillies and peppers over a hot barbecue, in a griddle pan or on a tray under a hot grill, turning them now and then until blackened and blistered all over. Carefully lift the hot peppers and chillies into a bowl (the smaller chillies won't take as long as the peppers so remove them first) and cover tightly with cling film. As they cool down, they'll cook gently in their own steam. By the time they're cool enough to handle, you'll be able to peel the skin off easily.

Step 2 When you've got rid of most of the skin, trimmed off the stalks and scooped out the seeds, you'll be left with a pile of nice tasty peppers and chillies. Finely chop by hand or put in a food processor and whiz up. Then put to one side.

Step 3 Heat a saucepan and pour in a splash of olive oil. Add the onions, rosemary, bay leaves and cinnamon and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook very slowly for about 20 minutes or so, until the onions become rich, golden and sticky.

Step 4 Add the chopped peppers and chillies, the sugar and the vinegar to the onions and keep cooking. When the liquid reduces and you're left with a lovely thick sticky chutney, season well to taste. Remove the cinnamon stick and the bay leaves. Either spoon into the sterilized jars and put them in a cool dark place, or keep in the fridge and use right away. In sterilized jars, the chutney should keep for a couple of months.