I find starters the best every time I eat at an Indian restaurant. The bhaji, pakoras and samosas are often so good that I end up having too many of them and feeling somewhat full even before the main course. All the starters are delicious, but samosas – Indian, fried, triangular-shaped pastry with a spicy potato and veggie stuffing – are my favorite.
The other day I decided to try making my own samosas. At that time, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. But was pleasantly surprised to find out that samosas are actually quite easy to make. Most of the ingredients are easy to find and it took me less than an hour to make 8 super yummy samosas. The dough was made in minutes and the stuffing is very easy, consisting of only potatoes, veggies and spices. Folding and stuffing the samosas took a little trial and error, but proved quite doable. I definitely recommend trying it: they are super yummy and something you can impress your friends with!
One thing that helped greatly was watching a video of an expert doing it. I found two great ones on youtube, with expert Manjula – a lovely Indian lady with a cute accent – demonstrating all steps of making samosas. They are quite funny, but even more so instructive and spot on. I am including them below. The first video is 8:30 minutes and shows how to make the dough and the stuffing. Part 2 lasts 5:30 minutes. It starts with Manjula folding and stuffing the samosas and ends with the frying process.
I only made two changes, substituting corn starch for semolina flower (which I didn’t have in the house) and using broccoli rather than green peas (which I simply preferred).
The hard to understand ingredient is “garam masala”, a mix of spices that is used a lot in Indian dishes and good to have at home. Among many other spices it includes cumin, clovers, and cardamom. And I also made some tamarind sauce, by mixing tamarind paste with some water and sugar. You can get both garam masala and tamarind paste at your local toko or Indian / Asian store.
Oh, and in case things go wrong, here is a great place for Indian delivery. Just give Indian Express on Pieter Langedijkstraat, behind Overtoom, a quick call. And they will bring you some great samosas, bhaji and pakoras. And they will even be happy to bring a main course if you still feel like having one after all those super yummy starters.
marqt is a new type of supermarket that focuses on selling fresh and tasty food. It has gotten a lot of attention in the press and many of us have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the first store. From well-informed sources I have now heard that the first shop will open on Overtoom, near Leidseplein, in December.
The focus of traditional supermarkets like Albert Heijn is clearly on convenience (“new extended expiration date!”) and price (“price permanently reduced on another 3000 products”). And the recent trend towards biological food has been shamelessly exploited by above supermarkets and chains like De Natuurwinkel to offer food that is not much better but definitely more expensive.
I buy most of my groceries from the turkish store on the corner. Why? Because it’s *good* – good as in tasty; good as in fresh, savory ingredients that make all the difference in cooking; good as in flavors coming from fruits, vegetables, meat, spices and herbs rather than from some mass-produced ready-mix. In Amsterdam, every saturday morning, thousands of people flock to Noordermarkt for exactly the same reason. So I must not be the only one…
What is the secret behind *good* food? The Slow Food movement has seen substantial success in promoting *good* food. Slow Food was founded in 1989 to “counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world”. Slow Food members consider themselves “co-producers, not consumers”.
marqt’s concept is to focus on local products rather than mass production; to employ personnel that loves food and is knowlegeable about it rather than students in pursuit of extra cash; and to partner with the producers through revenue sharing.
I am sold and cannot give it a try as soon as the first marqt opens its doors to the lucky co-producers of Amsterdam!
What a nice day! Sunshine, warm temperatures and blue sky. Such a pleasant surprise after this year’s wet summer and the arctic temperatures of the last few days.
To me, warm weather is weissbier weather and I am currently enjoying a cool Weihenstephan Hefeweizen!
For all of you who have never tried Weihenstephan, I encourage you to go out and have one. Like many other German “Weizenbier”, it’s very different from Belgian “witbeer”. It has a much fuller and smoother flavor. It has a wonderful cloudy appearance when poured into the typical tall half liter glasses and will charm you with its herbal and yeasty fragrance.
If you are craving a “Weizen” now, here are some suggestions where to get one:
Hesp on Weesperzijde has Hefeweizen on tap! Great! Just make sure you ask them for a proper Weihenstephan glass rather than a terribly unfitting Grolsch pint.
Grungy cafe Soundgarden on Marnixstraat (do they have a web site?!?) has a dark Weihenstephan for you to enjoy on its secret terrace.
Then there are brown cafe Westers (no web site either!?!) on 1e C Huygensstr near the Vondelpark, Jordaan institution De Tuin on 2e Tuindwarsstraat (nope, no web site either…) and Cafe Bax on Ten Katestraat.
And cafe Gollem on the Spui not only has a web site and over 200 beers on offer, including Weihenstephan, but even an image of the good stuff on its home page!
Of course you can also buy a few bottles or crate. Here are two suggestions:
I also posted a comment on diningcity.com, the organizer of Restaurant Week and also host of the web site of Klein Jansen. Even though the food was good (but not great), I rated the restaurant “slecht” (bad) because of the annoying formality and self-importance.
A few hours email I received an email from Hans Jansen, co-owner of Klein Jansen. I thought it was great to hear back from them, assuming that they cared about my feedback. Their message, however, did not express any interest in my feedback and only informed me that it was now too late for expressing dissatisfaction and that I should have done so that same evening I was there. Hm. By now I was really wondering if Klein Jansen was as non-pretentious as their web site states. Didn’t they care about my feedback? Didn’t they want to win back a customer?
I tried again, emailing back and asking about an explanation regarding my specific points of criticism. The response was a note that all other reviews were positive and that Klein Jansen was sure that I would be satisfied on my next visit.
Maybe it’s just me, but now I was feeling looked down upon even more. So I decided to have a closer look at reviews by others on diningcity and iens.
Granted, the ratings are solidly positive: There are many “good” and “very good” ratings and only few “average” and “bad”. I did note, however, some interesting things:
There is a post by Hans Jansen and Yolanda Klein stating that all anonymous criticism will be removed from the diningcity review list.
And when reading the commentary and reviews more carefully, I also noticed many good reviews with a caveat, most of them in line with my earlier comments about inflexibility and a tendency of caring more about the restaurant itself than the customer.
In summary: Klein Jansen is good if you do not mind a somewhat formal setting and if you do like a set menu with pre-selected wines. I would not recommend it if you are looking for a restaurant with a personal touch that is passionate about its food and its customers.
Just read the September issue of nl20, which has a great feature on hotel bars in Amsterdam. Hotel bars are a nice change from brown cafes and trendy scene hang-outs. They are more quiet and less smokey; you get more space; and often there are good wines and cocktails.
nl20 felt that hotel bars in Amsterdam do not get the attention that comparable bars get in other major cities. Unjustifiably as nl20 does a good job of explaining.
The article provides a good overview of the five star hotel bars and manages to give the reader an impression of the atmosphere, specialty drinks and bar tenders.
The Okura Hotel bar on the 23rd floor is worth a visit because of its great view. I would only go to the Hilton bar on a nice summer day to sit in the terraced back yard and enjoy a long drink. And I agree with nl20 that the risk of being overcrowded by drunk or stoned tourists at the Bar Americain on Leidsekade is simply too great.
One bar that I like and that was not covered by nl20 is the Golden Tulip Apollo (formerly Le Meridien). It’s spacious and has a great view out over the water behind the hotel. The bar personnel is very professional and quickly remembers the preferences of regular guests. I like to hang out there on one of the lounge chairs, by the window, with a glass of Pinot Noir from Bourgogne.
There are few good terraces for an after-work beer in Amsterdam, especially in the late summer (not to mention that we never had a summer in 2007…). Around the canals, terraces get no sunshine because of the low sun and the narrow streets and canals. And there aren’t many good places further out and about.
Hesp is a good one and favorite of mine – especially because they have Weihenstephan.
Yesterday I discovered another one: Ter Brugge on Overtoom 578. While guests at nearby and more popular Gent were sitting in the shade, Ter Brugge had great sunshine from 5pm on until late!