Unbelievably Expensive Chicken at Marqt

As a foodie I love the concept of Marqt – selling food directly from the producer with a focus on superior quality, local produce and eco-friendliness. I followed Marqt pre opening and praised the idea. And I wrote about the opening and recommended to everyone to go check it out – like I did. The first impressions were great. Marqt was different with a visible focus on tasty food rather than expiration dates and pretty packages.

expensive chicken from marqtNow, about six months later, I am starting to have doubts. What really struck me was the price of two chicken fillets I bought earlier this week. More than 11 Euros for about 400 grams of chicken breast is outrageous! I know and expect Marqt to charge a premium for quality. But 11 Euros?!? I usually buy chicken at a Turkish butcher around the corner where the same chicken breasts run between 3 and 4 Euros. A quick check at Albert Heijn online shows 375 grams of chicken breast for less than 3 Euros. So Marqt is about three times more expensive than the small Turkish butcher and its price is four times that of AH.

watery chicken from marqtWhat about quality then? Both Marqt and AH provide far inferior quality to the Turkish butcher. The chicken has an artificial light color and is watery to the point where frying it becomes a health hazard. Given that AH currently markets its meat with a “healthy choice” seal, I really see little difference between the fillets of Marqt and AH – except for the outrageous price tag at Marqt.

There are other issues at Marqt: The milk section is extremely limited – I often cannot find crème fraîche or full fat milk and there a few yogurt options. Ready made meals have taken over a section of the supermarket that used to provide interesting sauces. And while the canned products are from eco-friendly brands, they are often not the best tasting ones.

A group of food retail experts that visited Marqt to study the new concept seems to agree. Their conclusion was that Marqt is a great concept with a superior shopping experience but no difference in quality compared to the standard supermarkets they run.

Marqt recently opened a second store in Haarlem. I really hope that they will focus on quality food as they set out to do. And I will be happy to pay a premium for quality, shopping experience and the eco feel good factor. However, right now it looks more like a snobby and expensive food boutique with a messed up price to quality ratio!

Tartiflette Recipe

tartiflette on plateTartiflette is a great potato and melted cheese dish. It’s one of those you love to eat when out skiing or hiking in the mountains, getting cold, burning a lot of energy all day and then sitting around the table with a group of friends.

The ingredients are firm potatoes, Reblochon cheese, bacon, shallots, garlic and crème fraîche. I would describe how to make tartiflette, but I couldn’t do it any better than “le meilleur du chef” who have done a step-by-step photo series on how to prepare tartiflette. It’s very easy and can be done in about an hour.

Some hints and comments:

tartiflette in emile henry dishI highly recommend using an Emile Henry dish – they are beautiful ceramic dishes and the tartiflette will not stick. Believe me, you will be surprised how easy you can take the potato and cheese mix out of the dish and how little time it will take to clean.

Most of the ingredients are easy to find. Make sure you get firm potatoes. And go to a good cheese store for the Reblochon. Both the Tromp Winkel on Beethovenstraat and the Kaashut on Postjesweg carry Reblochon and will be able to sell you a ripe one – make sure you mention it. They also sell special crème fraîche that is much heavier and creamier than the regular stuff and will make your Tartiflette even yummier.

Recipe for Risotto with Corn, Asparagus, Tomatoes, Parmesan and Mozzarella

closeup risotto with cornRisotto is great – it’s not an easy dish but after having tried for a few times you will get the hang of it. It’s one of those fundamental dishes that you can do over and over again, combining the basic risotto with many ingredients. We started with the classic – mushroom risotto – and once we had that down, began experimenting successfully. So when fresh corn started showing up in the veggie and organic stores, we decided to make corn risotto – with asparagus, tomatoes, Parmesan and mozzarella.

Preparing the dish will probably take you about an hour. Not exactly a quick dish, but trust me, you will love it! The ingredients complement each other really well: bitter asparagus and sweet corn; acidic tomato sauce and creamy Parmesan and mozzarella. And the al dente risotto rice ties it together perfectly and gives the dish great texture! Read on how to make it!

You will need the following ingredients:
• 2 cups of risotto rice
• Shallots and garlic
• 2 fresh cobs of corn
• Vegetable stock
• Tomato puree (“passata”)
• Tomato triple concentrate
• Basil
• Parmesan
• Buffalo mozzarella
• Small, green asparagus

Feduzzi – the “Mercato Italiano” on Scheldestraat that I go to and write about a lot – is a great place to get most of the ingredients such as the risotto rice, cheese and tomato sauce. You can find the rest at your local veggie store or the Turkish store on the corner.

I prepare the risotto in three steps. First start the risotto rice. Then prepare the vegetables while the risotto is boiling. And finally mix it all up.

1. First bring the chicken stock to boil. You will need between one and one and a half liters. The stock needs to be hot when you add it to the fried risotto rice.

Now start the risotto by frying the risotto rice in a pan. I use half butter and half olive oil. Add the risotto rice when the oil is moderately hot and leave the flame on high until rice and oil start bubbling.

risotto rice, shallots and garlic fryingStir in the garlic and shallots – finely chopped – and when the whole thing starts bubbling again, reduce the heat and cover with a lid. Keep simmering for about five minutes or until the rice grains turn translucent – stir occasionally.

Make sure you fry the rice long enough – when I started making risotto I would fry the rice quite briefly and often have problems. Frying for as long as five minutes seemed counter-intuitive until I tried it. It works!

adding stock to risottoWhen the rice is translucent, turn the flame up to high again. You want the butter and oil to reach maximum temperature when you start adding the stock. Now start adding the stock – ladle by ladle, keeping the temperature as high as possible. After you have added about three ladles individually, you can start adding two or three at a time to give you time to prepare the other ingredients on the side.

2. It’s time to prepare the other ingredients while the risotto is boiling. Don’t forget to keep adding chicken stock whenever the liquid level in the pan is low.

cutting corn grains off cobCut the asparagus into bite sized pieces and fry them in a pan for 5 to 10 minutes. You need to fry them long enough for them to be tender and lose their bitterness – but not too long to let them keep their bite. Take them off the fire and set them aside.

Then boil the cobs of corn by putting them into boiling water and letting them boil at high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water and cut the grains off with a sharp knife.

3. The risotto should be almost done. Taste frequently when adding stock to make sure you do not overcook the risotto rice – risotto should be served al dente. We will now add the remaining ingredients – first the tomato sauce, then the corn and asparagus and finally the Parmesan and mozzarella. We will stir them in at low heat.

tomato puree and concentrateThe first ingredients you will add are the tomato puree and concentrate. They contain liquid, so you will want to add them just before the risotto rice is ready.

In this case, I am using tomato puree and concentrate instead of fresh tomatoes. It’s sad but true – the quality of tomatoes in Amsterdam is incredibly low. I have tried many stores – from the veggie specialist to the organic market and on to the Turkish store on the corner – but I never get anything that has enough flavor or even remotely reminds me of the aromatic tomatoes you can pick up everywhere in Italy or Spain. As a nice side effect, using tomato puree and concentrate saves the time usually needed for tomato sauce.

Next stir in the corn and the asparagus. We are almost done – the last ingredients to add are the Parmesan and the mozzarella that will give our risotto a lovely consistency and pungent, cheesy flavor.

Grated Parmesan and buffalo mozzarellaGet good Parmesan – this is one of the ingredients that will make a break this (and many other) dish. Go out of your way to get the best quality. Again, I highly recommend Feduzzi. And get buffalo mozzarella – it has a distinctly different and much stronger flavor than regular mozzarella and will give this dish and extra pungent note.

Grate the Parmesan and cut the buffalo mozzarella into small chunks. Stir into the risotto.

serve corn risottoWarm up deep dishes and serve the risotto with corn, tomato, asparagus, Parmesan and mozzarella as starter or main course.

Tuna Melt Recipe – Quick and Yummy

Tuna melt has always been something that I liked to order in a restaurant or sandwich place but never made at home. I guess the reason is that I never really knew what goes in a tuna melt or how to make it. The yummy and messy tuna melts always seemed like a mysterious concoction of some very obvious ingredients – tuna, toast, melted cheese – and ‘something’ else that gives it flavor and ‘somehow’ makes it gel.

Turns out that preparing tuna melt at home is quick, difficult to mess up and requires only ingredients that are easy to stock.

tuna melt ingredientsThe ingredients are:

  • one can of tuna (get good quality, canned in olive oil – not vegetable oil or water)
  • finely chopped shallots and garlic (raw – which will make for a nice bite)
  • juice of half a lime
  • mayonnaise
  • salt, pepper and Japanese hot pepper (guess it does not have to be Japanese, but the spicy mix you get at Japanese stores is great)
  • bread that can be toasted
  • cheese that can be melted (cheddar, emmentaler or similar)

tuna salad - mixingYou first need to make tuna salad: Mix all ingredients in a bowl – the tuna (without the olive oil unless you like your tuna melt very oily), about two spoons of mayonnaise, shallots, garlic, lime juice and the spices. You are looking for enough mayonnaise to later be able to easily spread the tuna salad. You can add vegetables like red bell pepper or scallions.

tuna melt - putting it all togetherThen you prepare the tuna melts: First pre-toast the bread for about half its regular toasting time (about 2-3 minutes, depending on the type of bread). Next, spread the tuna salad thickly (a thumb) on the bread. Slice the cheese (comte also works well) not too thinly and lay on top of the tuna salad. Put the melts in the toaster oven for the remaining time (about 3-4 minutes, depending on type of bread again and how bubbly you like your cheese).

tuna melt - in ovenAnd that’s it. Take the tuna melts out of the toaster oven when it beeps and serve hot and yummy. It’s great comfort and hangover food. And the different flavors and textures mix really well – the soft tuna with the pungent and crunchy shallots, the oily mayonnaise with the sour lime juice and the warm, melted cheese with the crunchy toast!

Feduzzi and Tromp Semi-Finalists in KDWN Food Store Competition

kdwn best food logoItalian traiteur Feduzzi on Scheldestraat and cheese specialty store Tromp on Beethovenstraat are two of my favorite food stores in Amsterdam. Both have high-quality products, a large selection and excellent service. These guys basically love their food.

Now they are getting recognition: Both Feduzzi and Tromp are semi-finalists in the KDWN food store competition. Feduzzi in the “food specialty store” category and Tromp for the title of best “cheese specialty store”.

kdwn best cheese logoThe KDWN – Stichting Kaas- en Delicatessenwinkels Nederland or Foundation Cheese- and Delicatessenstores The Netherlands – is an industry organization that represents food entrepreneurs in the Netherlands. They organize the yearly competition for best stores as well as the specialty food trade fair “Vakbeurs Foodspecialiteiten”.

Prize or not – Feduzzi and Tromp are worth a trip!