Perfect roast beef

I’m allowed to gloat… We had a perfect chunk of roast beef today. Recipe? Take some lean beef, top-side, I think. Sprinkle with crushed juniper berries, salt and pepper. Put dripping (schmaltz) on top. Cover completely with schwarzwalder schinken — cured, raw ham, not  bacon, in thin slices. Put with half-boiled potatoes in an oven dish. Cover with greased paper. Cook 15 minutes for every metric pound at 220 degrees centigrade. We had 1.5 kg, so we removed the paper at 30 minutes and took the dish out of the oven at 45 minutes. Enjoy!

No pictures, but Irina will post pictures of the white cat trying to get in through our kitchen window. She was quite mad because of the appetizing smell… The cat, not Irina.

And now Boon follows suit

About four years ago we discovered that Lindemans puts artificial sweetener in their Gueuze beer. Which means it tastes awful. Today Irina came home with Boon Gueuze and Faro. The Gueuze is still kosher, but Boon puts artificial sweetener in their Faro. Faro should be sweet of course, but it should be sweetened with sugar, not filthy, nasty tasting artificial sweeteners. And yes, we both can taste all existing artificial sweeteners — there’s not one that doesn’t leave a foul film of ickiness clinging to our mouths.

Correction: either my taste faculties have gotten better over the years or my memory is playing tricks with me, but in any case I was wrong about Faro. I got the following very nice message from Frank Boon:

Geachte heer,

Faro was een vers bereid bier, gezoet met kandijsuiker. Elke dag werd het door de kasteleins aangezoet met kandij voor directe consumptie. Sinds +/- 1880 wordt het ook aangeboden in flessen. Omdat kandij in flessen gaat gisten, liet men de kandij eerst meegisten met de lambiek. Daarna werd de faro aangezoet met zoetstof. In 1880 was dat saccharine, nu is dat sucralose.  Faro wordt vooral verkocht aan wie graag heel zoet bier drinkt. Bij Brij Boon maakt het +/- 0,7 % uit van de verkoop.

Wil u graag proeven hoe vers gereed gemaakte faro smaakt, doe dan als volgt: Vul een kruik met 1/3 water, voeg er 2/3 Oude Geuze aan toe en zoet naar believen met kandijsuiker (in grote kristallen, langzaam laten smelten).

Met vriendelijke groeten,
Sincères Salutations,
Kind Regards,
Frank BOON
Gedelegeerd Bestuurder

I have immediately bought new (and excellent) Gueuze Boon to give mr. Boon’s recipe a try!

Vanitas vanitatum

As this picture shows, lamb cutlets are in great demand in our family:

Grilled or quickly fried like a steak with a good sauce with mint and garlic and cream, for instance. Or a caper sauce. However, in the restaurant Le Caveau de L’Isle, (36 Rue de L’Ile St Louis), they do lamb cutlets that are a lot better than mine.

Not all their food is all that great, it’s very much a ‘drape-the-sprigs-of-chives-over-the-meat-sign-your-name-with-brown-sauce-we’re-poshish’ type of restaurant, and they serve the same gratin with all dishes. And everything is lukewarm — but that seems traditional. But their lamb cutlets were fragrant, tender and tasty in a way that I don’t seem to be able to emulate. Probably their cook is a better man than I am, but equally probably they have access to better meat than I can get from the local Turkish butcher.

But their cheese selection was poor; in the very same street there is a shop which has about a dozen different, great goat cheeses, and they served camembert, gorgonzola and two other bland cheeses. Ah well… That’s something I can point at with pride: whatever may go wrong, I always have a good selection of cheese to tempt my guests with.

A pity…

Lindemans used to be a good brewery, specialized in lambic, gueuze, faro and other lambic-derived beers. Lambic is a spontaneously fermented beer with a pleasant sour taste, and the gueuze is a mixture of old, ripe lambic and young lambic. Or at least, so it should be. But despite claims on their website about producing a real gueuze to counter the modern trend of light and sweetened gueuze-type beers, the Lindemans gueuze is sweetened with an artificial sweetener. Such a waste of a lambic. It isn’t as if there’s enough of it. Now the Lindemans gueuze tastes like some light soda with a dash of vinegar and a little alcohol. And it leaves a horrible aftertaste, a bland bitter film all over the tongue.


Or Genever, as it is also spelled. And the expensive variety called Korenwijn, not to be confused with Barley Wine, which is a kind of beer. I like my glass of whisky or whiskey just as much as the next thirty-something, but being Dutch, I prefer to delve into the depths of jenever and korenwijn — Dutch gin.

It all started when we had visitors from Australia — Adrian Morgan and his family. When trying to figure out what to give them that was really, really Dutch, we issued a call to arms to our slijter — that is, the proprietor of our local off-license.

He argued that we should offer our guests a drink distilled from malted grain flavoured with juniper berries and other rare herbs and spices. Genever, in short. Which I knew already all about, because my parents used to drink Jonge and Ouwe — that is, unsweetened and  sweetened Dutch factory gin. So I started shaking the bean in a deprecating gesture. I’d never drunk the crap, but it was liquor for old fogies, completely out of character for me, wasn’t it.

Hans, from the Poort van Kleef, advised us to buy half a bottle (or rather, a jar, because it’s made of stoneware) of Wenneker Korenwijn. Respecting his judgment (he knows a lot about spirits, and also provides us with respectable Madeira, nice portwine and very nice vinho verde), I made the purchase. Our guests liked the stuff, comparing it to some of the peatier Irish whiskeys, and we liked the stuff. Since then we have tried: Wenneker (excellent), Bols (close, but no cigar), Rutte (excellent, but very refined) and Rembrandt (not so good at all). All korenwijn, mind, which means it’s really distilled and aged, and not mixed together from alcohol, caramel and artificial flavourings.

Then, when we came across an assortment of little bottles of everything Rutte has to offer, we tried genevers, and discovered they can be good too. One thing led to another, and when my father brought a bottle of Zuidam Zeer Oude Jenever. This was excellent, almost as excellent as the Loyaal genever we shared with my father before.

So when Hans turned to have a box with four Zuidam jenevers in stock, we bought one. The jonge was nice, the oude was good — and we know the zeer oude to be great. But the Korenwijn… It reeks. It reeks of the old white glue we used to use at primary school. It’s sharp, harsh and leaves a nasty clinging, cloying after-taste. Not good at all…

Cooking for fifteen

I like to cook; Irina likes to cook, and we both like having guests helping us eat what we cook. We’re not too bad at it, I am a dab hand with a duck and a whiz with steak, and Irina is great with things like saracen stew or cheese souffle. But we seldom have more than two or
three guests.

However, this Friday, we had ten guests; the Tryllian ADK development team and their spouses and children. We had completed version 3.0 of the ADK, and as every software developer knows: version 1.0 is a joke, version 2.0 shows what’s coming and version 3.0 is a complete package that you can use. It does take ten years to build a decent bit of software; we’re at about five now, which is a nice milestone. So: a celebration was in order. And since taking over from
Yigal, I’ve been more or less technical lead or something like that, so my turn to fête the team. Cheese fondue for fifteen. Menno is project leader, but he had already fed us all before. In the end, there was more cheese fondue eaten than we had estimated, and less wine drunk, but more korenwijn, and not all the bread was finished, but all the olives. Here’s the pictures:

The whole table seen from the point of view of Tycho. (My daughters were a bit dubious about three — shudder — boys invading their house, but their worries turned out to be unfounded. They particularly liked Pepijn, but appreciated the company of the other two, too.)

Ditto, but from the point of view of Menno.

More or less ditto, but taken by Menno, so you can see me, too.

Anyway, we have had a very enjoyable evening — and night, too — something which I feel I had been needing rather badly for some time. Thanks, everyone for travelling all the way from North and South Holland to Deventer, thanks for the jar of Korenwijn.

And thanks are due to Datumprikker, which proved incontrovertibly that it was impossible to find a date that everyone could come; at least not before Lent.

Buying an earthenware pan

It turns out to be remarkably easy to buy an earthenware pan (supposed to be the perfect vessel for stewing hare in cream among other things). Specialized shops touting their wide-ranging assortment deny categorically that such things exist; you cannot put earthenwire on the fire. (A bit like specialized arts materials shops denying the existence of bristol board.)

But Dille & Kamille, a Dutch chainstore that mainly sells knick-knacks, dry herbs and crooked plates and twisted glassware has them. And not only that, in two separate stores in towns in North Holland and Overijssel, the staff knew they had the pan in stock and knew they could be used like a regular pan. This is the place I’ll be looking for kitchen stuff in the future.

Meanwhile: here’s the pan, given me as a belated Sinterklaas present by Irina. Set it to soak in water for six hours, and tomorrow I’ll stew venison with sour cherries and kriek beer in it.