Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Strawbear



I never got what one does with rhubarb. They were strange celery-like stalks and I imaged them to taste horrible. Like celery, only with a red hue. Then as I got older maybe I was more inclined to test other ingredients in the kitchen, and thus I once bought a bunch of rhubarb in Fruit & Veg for R15. I think I made a strawberry-rhubarb pie, not quite trusting the stalks to taste like anything edible on their own.

Rhubarb syrup?
Rhubarb season has started here and I embraced it completely. I made rhubarb and grapefruit syrup, then rhubarb-strawberry jam, then a jar of rhubarb compote and lastly a wonderful rhubarb panna cotta tart that looked and tasted incredible. I had rhubarb coming out of my ears by the end of it, but it was worth it. Everyone complemented the panna cotta tart and I ended up using the left-over champagne from my birthday with the last bit of rhubarb syrup as a cocktail, which worked really well. And now when my mom and sister come in three weeks I am totally super prepared for breakfast :)



Step 1 for the panna cotta


Rhubarb in the oven with WINE? Hells yes. 





This was super easy. And delicioussss. 

The tart bottom chilling in my window sill. 



Badaboom Badabang. 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Bloom

My grandmother has the green thumb in the family. She pulls out something in one spot and sticks it in a different one and it grows, whereas when I try to have plants they wilt and die. The only success I have is with the ones I can eat. Here I now have some basil, Moroccan mint and coriander growing steadily. And oregano, lemon balm and parsley seeds are sprouting into tiny sprigs of green on our window sill. 

With flowers I have had no such luck. Nevertheless, one of my wishes was to see the tulip fields in the Netherlands so when planning our trip to Amsterdam it was the opportune moment to insist on a day at Keukenhof. The Keukenhof gardens lie about an hour by bus outside of the city. Because it was a mild winter most flowers had bloomed already and the fields were not so much fields as individual stretches of colour. 

The gardens themselves are enormous with hundreds of different types of tulips and other bulbs. There was also a greenhouse with various orchids. Although it was lovely to walk around so many colours and petals in all shapes and sizes, Keukenhof felt too touristy for my liking. It seems that everyone only goes to be photographed in front of as many different tulips as possible, whereas I had this romanticized notion of strolling through fields of flowers and being overcome by their beauty and smell. Hah. Next time (next year? Try again maybe?) I'd prefer borrowing a bike somewhere and cycling through the fields, and ultimately skipping Keukenhof completely. 











Daffodils in cheese wheels. The Dutch!


Far away fields. 



A singular blossom of difference.



Some petals were the size of my hand. 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Then I'll go/ I'll go home/ Amsterdam

Come to think of it, I am uncomfortable in my mother tongues. Afrikaans makes me wonder if I am saying things correctly, if the idioms I use actually exist, whether something is spelled with a 'v' or with an 'f' and whether the vowel needs to be doubled or not. German poses similar problems. There is a vast vocabulary and cultural background in both that I have not grown up with because the languages represented my mother or my father, not countries and colloquialisms.

I feel at home in English because I don't need to think about which words fit. I learnt being 'as dead as a door nail' in Grade 4 when my mother sat outside on the patio with me and taught me the words. English took root consciously whereas the others remain at times uncertain to my tongue.

The past weekend however I did feel somewhat of a homecoming upon hearing Dutch in Amsterdam. Reading the billboards and the descriptions of products in the supermarket was easy. Hell, the supermarkets itself felt like going into Woolies and not into Lidl. The fresh produce looked fresh, the home brand's packaging was simplistic but modern, and everything invited you to purchase it.

But the trip to Amsterdam was not about language or consumerism (ok, a little bit of consumerism). All I wanted were fields of flowers. Tulip upon tulip merging into a blanket of colour. Because it was a mild winter the bulbs bloomed earlier and we came upon the last of the flowers. But more on that in a later post.

The trip there already took us 6 trains and 8 hours, so when the first 5 Amsterdammers were really unfriendly I was slightly pessimistic about the next few days. The city was also overrun with tourists who wanted to stand in queues for hours and tick off the Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank house from their lists. The girls I was travelling with also went to the museums, so instead I strolled along alone and simply took in the city.


Charging in the city. 
 











Trying to save on money, I mostly went to places I found when googling "free things to do in Amsterdam". The first was the Begijnhof, a secluded courtyard in the heart of Amsterdam where the Beguines still live. You have to find a wooden door to enter the courtyard, so it felt a bit Alice-in-Wonderland-ish. Right in front of the door is a square called Spui where coincidentally a second-hand book market took place, so basically I walked into heaven right there.

Begijnhof



This guy knows what it's about.


Building at the end of the world. 


Another wonderful thing about Amsterdam was its markets. Here there is a Wochenmarkt that happens on Wednesdays and Saturdays and where you can buy mainly fresh produce, some plants and needlework supplies. At home going to the market meant driving through to Joburg and exploring the delicious delicacies of the Neighbourgoods Market whilst pushing past throngs of hipsters. It entailed chilling with friends, enjoying a cocktail and exploring Braamfontein. In Amsterdam there is the Albert Cuyp market, which takes over an entire street and where vendors sell almost anything. There is fresh produce, bicycles and accessories, waffles, electronics, cheeses, poffertjies, and and and. It was very crowded but the rush of all the smells in the air was worth it. On our last day in the city we further headed to the Sunday Market, which seemed similar. We were there a bit too early, so the vendors were still setting up. But my mouth began to water when simply reading what was on offer: pulled pork sandwiches, tortillas with various fillings, wonderful breads and beautiful little tarts. If it had been a little later in the day I would have gotten a pitcher of Mojitos and had myself a feast.

On our way back to the train station we walked down the Haarlemmerdijk and found the.most.awesome.patisserie.ever. Petit G√Ęteau prepare all their little pastries in the store and you can also learn how to bake in their atelier. There is this row of 30 little cups with different fillings, ranging from every chocolate kind possible to orange and pistachio, clafoutis filling and the one I chose in the end: a panna cotta filling. Best thing I ate in Amsterdam.

Albert Cuyp Market
Vondelpark
Sunday Market in Westergasfabriek



The most delicious panna cotta pastry.

The asparagus has arrived. Such excitement for a shoot. 
After the last market we took 4 trains and again 8 hours to get back to Flensburg. Nothing like sleepless restlessness to make you appreciate having been elsewhere and having returned to your own bed.