Brasserie Vlaming, Amsterdam

The Netherlands isn’t really internationally renown for the quality of its good food, but during my time there I was thoroughly impressed. On the recommendation of one of my travelling companions, we popped into a nearby underfloor restaurant for a spot of dinner. The atmosphere is great from the moment you step inside – the tables are arranged to give the diners a sense of privacy and at the same time, it’s incredibly friendly and sociable.

The cheerful, chatty waitress joked with us as we placed our orders, and we got to watch everything being cooked up behind a counter where the chefs were working away in the kitchen area.

I can’t help thinking that the quality of bread is a great precursor for what the food will be like. So when a huge quantity of delicious warm crusty bread came over to our table with a fantastic herb sauce for spreading, I had high hopes for the rest.

My main was heavenly. An island of crispy salmon fillet, surrounded by a sea of hollandaise sauce. Possibly the best salmon I had ever eaten. We had fries on the side with mayonnaise – standard fare, but yummy. I didn’t take any pictures, so I borrowed one from my friend A, whose photography skills far surpass my own.

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For dessert, a pear and cherry crumble topped with a spoonful of ice-cream. This was almost too sweet for me, but I am notoriously picky when it comes to desserts. I would have preferred fresh cherries without syrup, but the crumble topping was superb.

We wandered out of Brasserie Vlaming full and content, and I would certainly return there again if I am in Amsterdam in the near future!

Frolicking in France

In France, I’ve been soaking up the heat. There has been wandering through quaint villages, clambering up mountains, and splashing about in rivers and lakes. All rather fabulous, except when it comes down to the eating. France’s foodie reputation is renown, so I guess it’s a tall pedestal to fall down from.

In rural France, the idyll of locally made, high quality produce seems to be hard to find. From my local boulangerie selling only mass-produced and stale baguettes, and the village market flogging peaches at €6/kg; it isn’t hard to see why local people prefer the nearest hypermarket.

I do like French hypermarkets, I have to add. There’s something terribly exciting about finding absolutely everything under one roof, and the quality of fresh fruit and vegetables there beats Tesco hands down.

Anyway, during my holiday I finally found a gem of a patisserie, predictably in an urban, rather than rural locality.

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Four delectable tarts. Tarte aux pommes, tarte aux noix, tarte au chocolat and tarte aux fraises. Apple, mixed nuts, chocolate, strawberry. Look at that perfect mirror of glaçage on the chocolate tart! The insides were perfect as well, with a meltingly rich ganache centre. My other favourite was the strawberry tart, sweet glazed strawberries on a bed of crème pâtisserie and a sprinkling of pistachio on top – delicious!

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It really made me want to bake. The French heat along with the tiny rented kitchen deterred me. I came back buzzing with ideas, so I guess I will still be whipping up plenty of French confections in the coming months!

What made me really happy was knowing that despite not having chocolate glaçage, glazing and other fancy patisserie skills, it’s actually quite easy to create a tart which delivers a similar flavour hit.  So if you can’t head out to your nearest French patisserie, I dare say you can make something just as good-tasting at home!

How fab is that?

Mix n Match Salad

Summer is the best time for salads, and I’ve been loving the simplest of them alongside cuts of roast meat, fishcakes and even solid slices of that English favourite – pork pie. The most important part of the salad is ensuring you use fresh, good quality tasty vegetables, and don’t forget the dressing! This salad is incredibly versatile because you can add almost anything you like to the mix, and it is guaranteed to taste fabulous.

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Mix n Match Salad

You need:

  • 1-2 green leafy vegetables: baby spinach, lambs lettuce
  • 1 crunchy vegetable, shredded: beetroot, cucumber, carrot
  • 1 sweet addition: pomodorino tomatoes, melon
  • a serving of protein: cooked chicken, smoked mackerel,
  • a serving of carbohydrate: cooked baby potatoes, fresh crusty bread
  • a teaspoon of dressing

Toss all the ingredients together. Drizzle over the dressing and serve immediately.

See? Easy Peasy!