Cake overboard

I googled “cake how to get out” and learned that the apprentice chef mustn’t attempt to remove the cake from its baking dish until the cake has cooled.

Respect for all skilled bakers out there. You are better than everybody else in the world ever.

This week’s cooking summary:

  • Two curries in one week is ample curry
  • I really like cooking with lentils
  • Sometimes nothing beats getting back to basics

Red lentil curry

I’d always wanted to but never had cooked with lentils. Everybody has a food that seems intimidating and along with lasagne, that was one of mine. Turns out lentils are as easy as a packet and a pot of boiling water. All those years of fear…

{above} is a red lentil curry that was scrumptious and so healthy. This with greek yoghurt is a divine coupling.

Potatoes and carrots getting to know the cumin and coriander

I’d also deigned it the week to try Lizzy’s tikka masala. {above} you can see the steamed potatoes and carrots, smothered in cumin and coriander. They then became what’s pictured {below}.

The potatoes and carrots grew up into Tikka Masala

I pronounced myself a genius but by the next day, presented with curry leftovers for the fourth time in a little over a week, I knew I needed a break from curry.

Vegetarian shepherd's pie mixture waiting to meet the mashed potato

We still had half a packet of red lentils so I went about turning some of it into vegetarian shepherd’s pie. The wholesome mixture {above} is waiting for the mashed potato.

Shep pie gets mashed

Ah, there it is. And with a little baking, this yummy, cheesy, wintry dish got into my list of favourites.

Shepherd's pie awaits the hungry

After a whole lotta cookin’ and recipe following, I did my grocery shopping the other day with nothing in mind. I was freestyling, rebelling against having it all worked out.

This resulted in an original pasta creation of sauteed spinach, roasted garlic, pesto and cheese. In the afternoon, I roasted two heads of garlic and then left them alone until dinner time. Later on when our tummies started rumbling,  after getting the pasta going, I washed the remaining half of a packet of fresh spinach (could’ve easily been the whole packet if we hadn’t already used it) and gently cooked that in a bit of butter. I used a bottle of pesto from the store, but first put it in a bowl and teased it out with extra olive oil and fresh lemon juice. After draining the hot pasta, I returned it to the pot and stirred through a handful of cheese, gave it a minute to melt then added the pesto, roasted garlic and spinach.

Spinach and pesto pasta

Seriously simple, undeniably delicious.

Crystal pouch

I have a velvet pouch.

It is red.

I keep three crystals inside it and I’m inviting you to have a peek.

I never knew I liked crystals until Mr B and I decided we were going to walk a very long way and my family decided crystals were the perfect gift – lightweight, personal talismans. There is a whole complex folklore of rules and meanings for crystals that I respect but don’t especially buy into — but it hasn’t seemed to affect my ability to covet these crystals. They remind me of my family, and they’re mysterious little carriers of light that manage to be useless and important all at once.

Heart shaped tangerine quartz

{above} Tangerine Quartz. Inherited. A gift from her sister, mum then passed it on to me.

Garnet, nonchalant on window ledge

{above} Garnet from sister. This is traditionally a traveller’s stone. It’s dark, small and opaque but if caught at the right angle, it bursts alight with reds and browns.

Amethyst angel watching over

{above} Amethyst from sister, a cloudy lilac angel watching over.

I must have been a) a philosopher or b) slow in a past life. I seem to require a lot of mental processing time after a new experience. Consequently, everybody has blogged about this before me. Various expat bloggers located in and near to Amsterdam had a bloggin’ hoe-down at a place called Cafe Gollum last Friday night. Even though Cafe Gollum is in a busy part of town, it’s a kind of laneway treasure for locals.

It was the group’s first occasion together and I think everybody came with a cautionary attitude but it ended up being my best night out in a month or two. Was it the heady Belgian brew? The too-hot cosiness of the pub? Actually, I think they are all simply interesting, open, friendly, English-speaking people. Cheers to that!

In the interests of unbiased reporting, please check these bloggers out, compare accounts of the blogger meet-up, and report back here.

  • Andy from Andy In Amsterdam
  • Amanda from Amanda Blog and Kiss
  • Angela from Amsterdamned
  • John from John Does Amsterdam
  • Jason from Hanson World
  • Haley from Texaantje
  • Anita from Greetings from Holland
  • Lizzy from Lizzy Goes Dutch
  • Pat from Byfurcated Carrots
  • Steph from Abacus and Quill

Happy packet cake with generic white icing

Whenever I open the fridge, I get a happy surprise. There’s a cake in there. It happens to be a €1,19 cake mix with generic white icing. BUT IT’S A CAKE!

This is how we served it last night — with quartered plums and a drizzling of condensed milk.

Slice of chocolate cake with plums and condensed milk - evil!

Not an art hysteric. I don’t wax lyrical. Don’t have a complex understanding of art history or theory. Don’t stare for an hour at a spot on a painting while imagining profundities I might unleash at a dinner party. I’ve been to lots of museums and seen, I think, thousands of paintings, prints, and sculptures. There’s always an appreciation of talent and hard work, but. Sore feet, lapsing concentration — museum fatigue, anyone?

Meaning I didn’t expect to walk around the Van Gogh Museum today with a gulp stuck in my throat. I think it was the colour work, the brush strokes.

Van Gogh close-up via Justin HoltonImage via justin.holton

The crisscrossing, layered colours in suggestive short strokes create an unreal likeness of a real scene; an emotional, gently fantastical facsimile of something familiar, like a vase of bright flowers, a verdant forest floor, a blossoming spring peach tree. I felt that while the subjects, objects and settings of the paintings were recognisably common, their depiction was vague and dreamlike. In the same breath, imaginative yet every-day.

For me, many of van Gogh’s paintings have an almost poetic ability to evoke a mood, and I think I’ll spend the rest of my life napping under the peach tree too.

Peach tree via arts of akkiImage via arts of akki

Note: The first image is an example of van Gogh’s style of brush stroke. You won’t see that painting at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. You will see the second one though, and 199 others.


Museumkaart tally:

€40 cost of card
€11 value of entrance to Rijksmuseum
€9,50 value of entrance to Cobra museum
€12,50 value of entrance to Van Gogh museum
€7 value yet to be had

This is all about what’s come to life in my kitchen this week. If you don’t like food…that’s terrible, let me make you a sammich.

So, roasted garlic mashed potatoes. This was a first both in roasting garlic and mashing potatoes the Pioneer Woman way, involving low-heat mashing, cream cheese, and a whole lotta butter. I must say the consistency is the best in the history of mash I’ve made, and delicious to boot. The roasted garlic. Well, people, I feel like a more well-rounded individual now that I know about roasted garlic. And if I keep following PW’s recipes, I think I’ll be well-rounded in another sense too.

Salty, soft, flavourful roasted garlic

Salty, soft, flavourful roasted garlic

Mashed potato cloud with roasted garlic wings

Mashed potato cloud with roasted garlic wings

Earlier in the week I also came face to face with the transfixing gloriousness that is pan-seared tomato and cheese. Tomato and cheese is such a familiar pairing that at times it may seem an almost pedestrian combination, but flash cooking these babies gives an intensity of flavour that simply recalling now is making me salivate. It’s probably a little fatty but involves very little work and time so a perfect occasional treat. We ate ours in a baguette with avocado slices, salt and pepper, and a little lettuce.

Pan-seared tomato and cheese

Pan-seared tomato and cheese

Also given a try was Lizzy Goes Dutch’s Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole, a moist, hearty, reasonably nutritious dish that poses as a naughty treat. If preparation time is a consideration, it’s easy to cook extra rice one night and use the leftovers.

Cheesy casserole concoction featuring rice and broccoli

Cheesy casserole concoction featuring rice and broccoli

Secretly, I declared today PYJAMA DAY. It is Sunday, after all. I told noone, but suspicions were aroused as the day approached lunch. I suffered some jibes about smells, and by early afternoon those jibes had progressed to coaxing based on how I’d “feel better”. I stood my unwashed ground.

With dinner time round the corner, I decided it was time. A hotter and happier shower hasn’t existed.

I realised that my interpretation of a successfully transgressive day comes from my mum. I guess some people get drunk, others get high, still others skip church or gorge on fastfood. I stay in my pyjamas.

Mum raised four children while working full-time, and did lots of crazy things to claw back mental space and time whenever she felt herself disappearing. She would book herself a hotel room for a couple of hours just to lie in peace and read a book. Or she would stay in her pyjamas for half the day.

Pyjama days have a ‘me time’ taste. I love the model for womanhood that is my mother.

After whooshy, windy gales all day, it finally stormed. Lightning in vivid forks. Drumming thunder. And still the wind.

I sipped my marshmallowed hot chocolate and watched from the lounge room shadows. I’ve always loved the contrast when it’s rough outside and warm and safe and dry inside. It gives me a childlike sense of wellbeing. Maybe that’s why I’m charmed by the idea of a wintry Christmas! Swapping gifts, singing carols, munching spicy biscuits and swilling mulled wine against a backdrop of chill and snow. Yes please.

Storming, Friday night in Amsterdam

Storming, Friday night in Amsterdam

Bookcase via Absolutely Beautiful ThingsImage via Absolutely Beautiful Things

Bookcase via Apartment TherapyImage via Apartment Therapy

Bookcase via Design*SpongeImage via Design*Sponge

Storage is almost as much a passion of mine as decluttering. You could summarise it by saying, the little I have, I want well organised. When Emmy over at Number Seventy-Five opened the floor for suggestions on book storage, it made me think about my last place in Melbourne.

Home was a 1960s art deco apartment. The block was a 10 minute drive from the urban jungle of Melbourne city and two hops from a big lake which is one of the most popular places for inner-city residents to walk, jog, sprint, row, bike and more. Being part of an older building, the apartment is enormous compared to current city apartment sizes and has some fabulous ‘vintage’ touches that feel quaint, if bewildering (like the internal windows between the spare bedroom and the sun room — what is their purpose? — and a toilet seat that glows in the dark).

The spare room has one of the most striking features of all; a double belt of continuous shelving slung low, and covering two walls. It seemed a brave design decision to me because an obvious drawback of permanent low shelving is that options for placement of furniture is limited, but it offers incredible storage and makes a loud, immediate statement about the room. Such a curious design element, it made me wonder how previous occupants had made use of the shelving. For us, it held crammed rows of books, music and movies, as well as trinkets, candles, artwork and special boxes.

What’s your best storage story?

While you’re ruminating on that, check out the staircase bookcase over at Apartment Therapy — so innovative it hurts. I imagine I’d be picking up a new book every time I went between floors!

Bookcase staircase via Apartment Therapy


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