Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Turkish cooking lesson : Borek

I was invited by a friend to join a cooking lesson just around the neighborhood.  I knew it would be fun until I found out it will be conducted in Dutch (boo!) haha.  Well, i'm almost 1 year now in NL, and i would say i'm comfortable understanding de Dutchies.  I am still a bit shy to show them  the-dutch-in-me but i am getting there *wink*.  And just like love, FOOD doesn't speak any language. (i'm sure you fellow foodies would agree :D)

The class was run in a building in Utrecht where a worship room stands and a mini grocery where you can buy Turkish goodies.  And before we started cooking, we went shopping in the mini grocery to grab the ingredients for the day.

The dish was called Burek/Borek whatever it's real name is, it sounded good. :)  I've read in wikipedia about this dish but i was surprised with the different varieties of it.

And here's our Utrecht-style Borek
yummy-looking, isn't it?  read on to know how to make it.

I'm sure just like me, mostly everyone who's not well-versed in the kitchen, middle eastern or meditterenean cuisine sounds intimidating but be-scared-not...

What made this dish easy to make is the ready made thin dough, Yufka or Phyllo, unleavened flour that is oftenly used in the middle east.  You can get this in turks shop or anywhere in Lombok area in Utrecht  (i'm not sure where you can get this in Philippines or in Singapore though)

brushed oil on the rounded oven pan.  Ok, see that bottle of oil, we got that new and full, and see the amount that was used?  haha Shocked!  During the course, i noticed that it's normal for Turks to use a lot of it or better yet, they're fond of oil :D.  The phyllo was so thin that it's difficult to maintain it in one piece.  (check out the mess we did)

HT Hubbie loves borek.  But of a different kind with (gehakt or minced meat).  For the filling, we used 2 types of sausages (one that is similar to those you can get in cans and a fresh one), grated cheddar cheese and lots and lots of coriander.

just throw everything on top of the pan (easy, huh?) and more oil...whew!

we forgot the cheese but it was never too late.

if you think the thin phyllo makes this dish a light meal, think again...add more oil, then pour a cup of milk with flour all over...hmm..

use the remaining dough on top.  We cooked it on the fire instead of using the oven.  Our teacher, Fahtma, likes the conventional way :).  What's difficult with this method is you have to keep on turning the pan around so the dough is cooked evenly and it doesn't stick to the pan.  When the outer layer is a bit burnt, this was placed in the oven for 200C for about 10 mins.

it might not be appealing to the eye, but the taste said otherwise.

This was divided into 8 and i had a slice but it stuffed me like i had 2 slices of pizza or a hearty quiche.  And there's something with the deeg or dough that made this borek so tasty...whatever it is, i have to learn to read in Turks but since food doesn't speak any language then i'll stick to the ready made. :)

Have you done any unusual dish or attended any cooking lessons? :) Share your experience here :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Prague, Czech Republic : HT Couple hits Praha!

Netherlands has a little over 5 days of public holidays and whitmonday is one of them. 

HT wife: "hey, whitmonday is a holiday in NL"
HT hubbie: "yeah, so?"
HT wife: "Time for a short holiday!"
HT hubbie: "Ok..."
HT wife: "booked"

Yes...we try to travel hard while we can still walk long distances and when age is not yet a concern.  And this time, we decided to go East in Europe and we didn't think twice but to explore the beautiful Prague. 

Prague has maintained its charm despite of wars and floods.  And if you love Paris, think of Prague as a cleaner Paris (volgens mij - according to me).  And Prague is a place that wherever you stumble and whatever time of the day, you can see something interesting and beautiful. 

Tyn Church at night

Municipal House

Prague Castle

St. Martin Rotunda in Vysehrad

even Vysehrad cemetery made sure they're truly Prague

Being a walkable city, comfy shoes is a must and few stops here and there are necessary.  And Prague made sure that in every few steps, you have a place to hang around.

We arrived pretty late in the beautiful city, and the first thing we did after dropping our bags was...

to gulp glasses of beer (I had the Kozel, which is dark but light in taste which was favorable for me).  I don't really like beers, but hey, i'm in Prague...I will drink beer :).  For touristy area, you can get -0.5l Pilsnr for about 60-80czk~3.80 euro.  If you're adventurous enough and wanted to save a few kroners, check those small streets which serves the same beer and size for 35-40czk ~1.68 euro.  Drop by during happy hours...it does exist in Prague!

And you can never go hungry...
you can get ham in old town square and watch how it's being smoked

or this foot long inside the Prague Castle when your tummy starts growling...for food while walking around the area - it's better to have your tummy full before you started exploring the place if you mind being ripped off.  This foot long costs 120 czk~ 5.80 euro

HT couple, as tourists, ate like tourist so we made sure that we visit this raved cafe...

old cafe louvre building

with their famous hot chocolate

one thing i noticed in Prague, almost all menu, have measurements of what you order...the no. of grams, the no. of liters...i guess, right expectations are quite important here.

aside from beers, start your day right with MEAATTT...and that's what i did though i skipped the beer...(a good variation of Moravian ham, salami, chorizo and ham with pickles) 100+czk~5-7 euro

the bread is served to everyone with cover charge of 12 CZK whether you order it or not.  And expect additional few czk if you want milk with your coffee.

Czech cuisine is not very famous to locals.  But when you're a tourist, you should try it at least once.  But the gauge is more of, which place serves good or unique beers or cheap beers then you eat it with a Czech plate instead of the other way around. :)

and this is what made Pivovarsky Dum famous in Prague (beer sampler- consisting of 8 - 0.1L and uniquely served in this restaurant/brewery in one...do follow the arrow to savor each beers correctly) - 130czk~6 euro.  My favorite was the banana beer and HT hubbie settled with their wheat beer.

color wise, i love this green beer (made of nettle)!

Czech cuisine is similar to Germany or Austria.  HT hubbie indulged in this beef goulash with all types of dumplings(meat but starchy, bread and potatoes) 200czk~10 euro deluxe .  Nothing special other than the dish was pretty salty.  Gulp down a big glass of beer to wash out the salt from your body.

and i hate those advertisements or banners...it made me ordered pork knuckle (200czk~10euro/kg) that is almost half a piglet.  Good thing there's no side dishes other than horseradish and mustard sauce.  The meat was bit dry but i guess that's usual for roasted pig and it's bland without anything with it.  So if you don't fancy the pickled veggies and mustard sauce, i wouldn't recommend this plate.  (trivia: I finished it...whew!)

What's funny is that this restaurant stood just across the boutique hotel we stayed in so drinking too much and crawling home was possible.

We also tried the locals favorite hang out places..

Kozicka meaning little goat is an unpredictable place.  Peaking inside, you would only see wine cellars and bottles unless you really know the place, you wouldn't bother going in.  The actual dining area is at the basement and it's not just a wine and cheese place but serves real food!  Thanks again to Dahlia Inn's owner for his suggestion.

HT hubbie sticked to his principle that he's in Czech, he would eat only Czech food.  Kozicka, only has 3 different type of Czech cuisine and only the beef goulash sounded enticing.  And HT hubbie got it right this time, the beef was so tender that it melts in your mouth and the sauce was so tasty and well-balanced.  To top it off, this interesting potato pancakes were lovely and not oily.

and without much czechy choice, i settled to this rump steak (200g) but kozel style.  Topped with baked blue cheese with almond and chili sauce, i was scared that the chili sauce might overshadow the steak itself but it didn't!  I was surprised how it blended well with the saltiness of blue cheese and the aroma of almonds.  It was a perfect steak and a must-have!  (side dishes are ordered separately).  I got the goat potatoes, in onion and garlic cream.

even though they forgot to ask me how do i want it to be cooked, they still know what medium rare is.
Check out the blue cheese and almonds with oozing chili sauce? :) Unique, isn't it? :)  It was so delicious that I can't sleep that night despite of complementing it with a bottle of Moravian wine (Czech wine).

And after 2 days of eating meat and more meat...on our last lunch in Prague, we decided to go green.

tucked in a small street Borsova in old town, which is not visible to tourists' eyes.  (Thanks again Dahlia Inn owner!)

once you enter the place, it has a different ambiance from outside.  We got this small table on one side as most tables were reserved.  We were pretty early there so we were able to have photo sessions but after an hour, the locals started coming in.  (Lunch is very important in Prague)

Soup of the day - spinach soup with champignons, quinoa (a type of grain) and cream.   

Pinto salad was HT hubbie's choice - healthy but tasty salad with sour cream, eggplant and tomato puree with nachos.  It was refreshing andlight...it was nice to have something different yet tasteful after being TOO carnivorous.

 I took the oriental fry as i've been craving for something Asian.  We were supposed to try Malai Buddha near the Strahov Monastery but it's closed on Mondays...bummer.  But this plate was pretty good and tasty despite the lack of meat.  It was a bit spicy and was a good partner of rice.

They have daily menu - soup and main course for only 108czk (5 euro).  And the drinks were all refreshing (55 czk - 2.50 euro).  I got a fresh glass of aloe vera.  It's still a restaurant in czech, so beers are available!

We left Prague with full tummy.  We went to more places but I let you guys discover it yourself.  One thing is for sure, you can never go hungry nor thirsty there...even if it's beyond midnight!

And the place we stayed was worth mentioning.  It was situated just a few blocks from the main square - Wenceslas Square and run by the owner himself.  He's very hands on and treated us, and the other guests with trust.  He gave suggestions that are not easy to find via internet and let you check out places where locals usually hang out.  The rooms are what you see in their website (unlike other hotels where the pictures all over internet was so pretty and clean but staying there says otherwise).  If ever, i'll be back in Prague, I would definitely stay in Dahlia Inn again.  And for 50-60 euro, with decent beds, clean rooms and a good guide...this was really cheap and worth it.


Just like Rome and Madrid, Prague will be a place where i can visit over and over again...and will never get tired of appreciating its beauty.


I forgot to post this traiditional Czech bread which i also love.  You can choose between almonds or cinnamon. 
i chose the one with almonds

the fun part is watching how it's being made

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Utrecht, Netherlands: LE:EN

HT Couple is still looking out for unique restaurants in Utrecht.  If you have read our post about BADHUIS, then you can see the similarities of this place but focusing on different cuisine.  And I came to know later on, that Badhuis and LE:EN, are sisters. :)

How did we stumble into LE:EN?  They said couples get along if they enjoy simple leisure TOGETHER.  And if we're not underwater or outside the Netherlands, we love cycling or walking around Utrecht over and over again.  Even with the same routes, Utrecht never failed to amaze me with hidden eating places that as soon as I get the sight of it, I know that I would be back there soon...sometimes too soon.

This was the scene that we stumbled just cycling around.  They have a small terrace in front where you can enjoy their unique cocktails and drinks. 

the place has the same unique character as badhuis.  But this place is more laid back and has that oriental feel.

And they stick to being oriental/asiatic by serving plum wine and lychee wine which HT couple didn't think twice of ordering. :)   The lychee wine was nice but we preferred the plum wine.

The menu kaart, same as badhuis, you're given enough choices where you can tick off and order what you fancy.  In Asia, this way of ordering is famous in HK food places.  I love the concept.  It saves time for the waiter and saves energy for the diners of saying 'no, i'm not ready to order yet'.  Neat, he?

And...what have we ticked off in the list?
The only item in the breads and dips.  This is a combination of Indian naan, which was a disappointment as naan but good as bread, Surinamese papadum and cassava chips but to me the latter tasted like prawn crackers which went well with th Pakistan bengan raita dip and Indian coriander chutney, which HT hubbie is addicted to.  (He's a coriander monster!  Shh...)

Ever since i've decided that I would be in Europe for good, I always fancy for peking duck.  and I don't think I've eaten much duck back in Asia as much as i've eaten here.  I guess, it's true that absence made your heart grow fonder...and mine is for the duck.  This peking duck roll was pretty good with hoisin sauce on the side.  The minced duck filling was tasteful enough but i guess i am missing the duck skin and the oozing oil running through my mouth.  For a little over 5 euro, i'm not complaining.

We ordered this Japanese Takaki Sashimi, when it made me mouth-watered when I saw it on another table.  I haven't eaten beef this raw before but the dip played an important factor in this dish that gave the beef slices it's ooh...la...la!

we loved this fish roe dip!  We enjoyed popping the roe in our mouth.

For something warm, we had Japanese Kare Udon - Curry with sake, calf meat, veggies and maybe 5 pieces of udon streaks!  (yes, I counted it!  but it's under soup section, so it's understandable)

We also didn't want to miss anything on the sticks, so we got ourselves this Indian vindaloo which was a delight as well.

This was the last dish that came but it was worth the wait.  This goat rendang was tender and smackingly delicious.  We were not planning to eat much carbs, but with this dish, we forgot about that plan.

And this place ddidn't burn our pockets as most items were priced around 3-7 euros. 

After a nice dinner here, HT couple went back home and continue with their other simple leisure together...watching TV while they're cuddled up on the couch.

Have a great week allemaal! 

Westerkade 37
(check out their website as they're moving soon!)