Saturday, December 31, 2022

Weekend Cooking: What We Ate on Holidays - Part 2

This week we have moved from The Netherlands to France where we will be spending a couple of weeks, but before that I have a few more things to post about in my current series of linked posts about what we ate on holiday.

On the Saturday before Christmas, Robert and I took the opportunity to head into Amsterdam for a chance to do some sightseeing. We started with a traditional Dutch pancake which is made from wholemeal flour. I chose to have the ham version,

Whilst walking around the city, we came across the most amazing lolly/candy shop. I am pretty sure that we wouldn't be able to the store displayed like this in Australia but it did look amazing. I also took a picture of tennis ball gum balls and silver coated hazelnuts. You could get them in gold as well and when you scooped them out and let them land back in the container they looked like liquid silver. Gorgeeous. We ate something different from this store though.

We have eaten the set menus whilst in France, where you pay a fixed price to have either a starter and a main or a main and a dessert or all three. While we were in Honfleur, I had moules mariniere et frites. Here's the before and after.

We also had some really, really delicious cider which prompted us to go and visit a Calvados (apple brandy)  distillery which was really interesting.

Yesterday we went to see the Bayeux Tapestry which was amazing. Here's a tiny portion which I snuck a photo of which shows a feast being prepared and served.

Last night we decided to just choose what we wanted from the menu. We had a little something something from a patisserie in the hotel room so we decided to have a selection of Normandy cheeses and then I had a pork fillet with wild berry sauch and truffled mash potatoes. It was so delicious!

The cheeses included neufchatel which isn't readily available in Australia as far as I know. Back in the 80s we used to sell chocolate and strawberry flavoured versions but I don't remember trying the non flavoured version before now.

This week we are spending some more time in Normandy then going to the Loire Valley and heading to Paris.

Finally, I wanted to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday - Last Ten Books I 1-clicked



Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week the theme is Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection. I have limited my list to the last 10 books I 1-clicked.

The Proxy Bride by Zoe Boccabella - This book tells the story of Italian women who were married by proxy and then sent to Australia where they met the man they were already married to. It sounds really interesting.

The Beachside Christmas by Karen Clarke - One of the many Christmas books I 1 clicked recently.

Christmas at Red Robin Cottage by Sue Roberts - Oh look, another Christmas book!

Christmas in Paris by Tilly Tennant - And yes, another!

All's Fair in Love and Chocolate and You Had Me at Chocolate by Amy Andrews - Amy Andrews is an Australian author, but these book are set in US.

Becoming Beth by Meredith Appleyard - I can't remember why I bought this  one, but it does sound interesting

Snowflakes and Secrets in the Scottish Highlands by Donna Ashcroft - Sneaking another Christmas book in.

A Baby on the Doorstep and 

A Home for Unloved Orphans by Rachel Wesson - The second book was on sale for cheap, but I had to buy the first book as well. Yes, I am a marketers dream customer!

Have you read any of these?

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Weekend Cooking: What we ate on holiday - Part 1

As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently in the Netherlands. We arrived last Sunday night after two extremely long flights. The first from Melbourne to Dubai was 14 hours and then the second flight from Dubai to Amsterdam was another 8 hours. My brother in law and his family live in a town about an hour outside of Amsterdam, and my parents in law are here from South Africa as well. It is the first time that my husband will have Christmas with his parentss and brother in at least 15 years so it is kind of special.

For today's Weekend Cooking post, I thought I would talk about a few different things from our trip so far. You can expect more over the coming weeks.

The last couple of times we flew long haul flights to the US I was quite disappointed in the food that we were served. We got to our  destination and we were hungry. However, that was not the case with these flights. We flew with Emirates and the food was pretty good and there was plenty!  

The first time we went to the supermarket, my husband was very excited. There are many foods of Dutch origin that it isn't easy to obtain in Australia or they are very expensive so we spent quite some time wandering through the supermarket looking at items that bought back childhood memories.

One item that we did buy was Komijnekaas which is cheese that is flavoured with cumin. My husband tells me that we can get it in Australia but I have never seen it, or even looked for it for that matter! We have had this on toast for breakfast most of this week and it is delicious!

One flavour that is very prevalent here is apple. Since we have been here so far we have had a modern interpretation of apple pie, as well as apple ball and apple strudel. The apple ball is very interesting. It is slices of apple that is layered with vanilla sauce and then rolled in a crunch coating. It was delicious!

We often eat croquette and have tried various different types over the last couple of years. We have talked about trying to make croquettes but my huband tells met that it is quite a production and takes a lot of time and effort.

When we visited The Hague, I decided it was time to have proper Dutch croquettes and they were absolutely delicious. In this case, they were served with really fresh bread, mustard and a little slaw.

There are still a number of things that I would like to try before we leave The Netherlands, including freshly made stroopewaffels and olliebollen. Olliebollen is traditionally eaten at New Years. My husband did tell me that we are not here at the right time of year, but given that it is only a week until New Year's Eve and we are going to be France then, I think that we can have them a few days early!

One thing we will definitely be having moreof before we head to France is hot chocolate! Oh my goodness, they are good here. My husband is very happy because usually the hot chocolate comes laden with proper cream, and cream is one of his favourite things.

I am sure that we will also take the opportunity to try other Dutch foods before we move onto France!

To those of you who celebrate I wish you a very happy Christmas!

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page

Friday, December 23, 2022

Virtual Advent Tour - Christmas markets in The Netherlands

Welcome to my stop on the Virtual Advent tour hosted at Sprite Writes. I am so pleased to see that the tour is still going strong. The first virtual advent tour was back in 2006 so that isn't a bad run!!

We are currently in The Netherlands where we are spending Christmas with my husband's brother and his family who now live here. His parents are also here from South Africa. It's the first time my husband will spend Christmas with his parents and brother in around 15 years so it is a pretty big deal!

This part of our trip is all about the family things, so when we were planning our trip, there was only one thing that I insisted that we needed to do. I had to be able to visit a Christmas market. If I got to do anything else touristy it would be a bonus.

As it happens we have visited two markets (so far). The first was in a town called Valkenburg which is about 3 hours away from here and it is considered to be one of the biggest markets in The Netherlands and is the biggest underground market in Europe. The town of Valkenburg is quite close to the Dutch border, so there was a mix of nationalities visiting. We visited during the week so it wasn't too busy, thank goodness. I imagine it would get very busy on weekends!

The thing that makes Valkenburg unique is that all the markets are held in the caves underneath the ruins of a medieval castle.  There are four caves, but we only visited two - Gemeentegrot (Municipal Cave) and Fluweelengrot (Velvet Cave). 

The setting in the caves was amazing. I was a bit disappointed by the stalls themselves, but it was still worth the long drive to visit such an interesting place and so much history. For example, in one of the caves there is a chapel that was established in the time of the French Revolution. Catholic priests would  run church services, marriages, christenings hidden away. There are still services held now on request. It would be a magical place to get married for sure.

There is also a daily parade through the town but we didn't stay for that because it was a long drive back to where we are staying.

We also visited the Royal Christmas Market in The Hague today, which we visited as it is where my mother in law grew up. This was set in a park surrounded by old buildings. There were bare trees that had lights strung between them, the smell of food cooking, music playing.

I really loved visiting both of these places and could easily have spent a lot more time in both of these towns. The Hague seemed particularly interesting, especially because of my mother in law's connection, but also because the city has an interesting history!

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Christmas Quotes: Flea Market Christmas Magic

Today's Christmas quote comes from the book Twenty One Nights in Paris. Whilst the title doesn't necessary tell you that this has anything to do with Christmas, but this book has quite a few Christmas references! Not to mention quotes about Paris!

Looking around desperately for shelter, she noticed shafts of warm light emerging from the gates of another market, painted a lurid yellow that was somewhat softened by the pine boughs hanging below the sign. prais the Lord, the market had a roof. Ren hurried in that direction, sighing when she reached shelter and the sleet no longer stabbed her nose.

There waas a thick warmth radiating from further inside and she followed the sensation as though drawn by a magnet. When she reached the source of the warmth, she could almost believe flea market Christmas magic did exist.

The warmth came from a wonderland of Christmas past. At the front stood a white carousel horse with a grey mane, finely sculpted, with a golden bridle and a glittering saddle. Carved wood panelling and antique mirrors adorned the walls, along with embroidered curtains with twisted rope tie-backs. A beautiful mahogany escritoire was off to one side, covered in letters addressed to 'Pere Noel'. Two fragrant Christmas trees stood in opposite corners of the space, glowing with lights. The moulded ornaments were plump and nostalgic - shiny pinecones, stars, baubles and Father Christmas. Some showed enough wear for Ren to guess that they were all vintage.

Opposite the escritoire, Ren found the source of the glorious warmth: an iron stove, with elegant scrollwork and glazed patterned tiles She tugged off her gloves and stepped forwards to warm her hand with blissful relief.

At the back of the stall, on a small platform covered by a Persian rug, stood the most extraordinary thing of all: Santa's sleigh. It was curved like a shell, with a space on the side to get in and out. The two benches were plush red velvet and the outside was decorated in the effusive, joyful golden ornamentation of the Bel Epoque, with leaves and plum swirls and a giant fake jewel. She guessed it had originally come from a carouset, but it was perfect for its new role. 

Two small children sat in the sleigh talking to the man himself, gazing with wide eyes at his bearded face and the red fur-lined robe. They were admiring their fists: two rustic horseeshoes that they clanged together, making a satisfying tone in the hushed market stand. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Christmas Quotes: Imagining Christmas

Over the course of December each year, I share a number of Christmassy quotes which have caught my attention through the year

Today's quote comes from The Golden Oldies' Book Club by Judy Leigh, which I read and reviewed recently. You can read my review here.


Jeannie was decorating the Christmas cake, coaxing the royal icing to resemble snow, placing the tiny wooden Santa that Violet had used each year since she was a child. It was a dense fruit cake moistened with cider brandy, and it would last until January despite the huge hunks that Caleb would eat from Christmas Eve onwards. Jeannie was planning Christmas Day in her head as she worked.

And a bit later....

Jeannie would cook plenty of crunchy roast potatoes, and a variety of vegetables. Ella and Caleb would help. Violet always made the Yorkshire pudding; no one could quite make them as light and fluffy as she could. There would be a Christmas pudding flamed with cider brandy, a sprig of holly on top, brandy butter. She'd offer an apple crumble, ice cream, fruit salad. It would be a great spread. Jeannie saw the image as a Christmas card, so many happy faces lit golden and amber in the firelight, glasses raised, candles glowing, snow piled in drifts outside the window. She loved snow; she loved to walk in the orchard and feel the soft crunch of it underfoot. She smiled and surveyed the icing the cake; it was perfect, as Christmas would be perfect this year.

Violet is the main character's 95 year old mother who has a joke for every occasion, so I thought I would share one of her Christmas jokes as part of this post.

What is Santa's favourite kind of pizza? One that's deep-pan, crisp and even.

And another...

How did Mary and Joseph know that Jesus was 8lb 2oz when he was born? They had a weigh in a manger.

And that's enough of those.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Christmas books on my Kindle I haven't read yet


Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week the theme is Books I Hope Santa Brings This Year. However, I am choosing to instead share just some of the Christmas books I have on my Kindle that I haven't read yet!

Snowflakes and Secrets in the Scottish Highlands by Donna Ashcroft

The Drover Comes Home for Christmas by Darry Fraser

The Clause in Christmas by Rachael Bloome

Cupcakes for Christmas by Kate Hewitt

His Christmas Cowgirl by Alisa Callen

The Christmas Swap by Sandy Barker

Christmas with the Railway Girls by Maisie Thomas

Christmas in Paris by Tilly Tennant

Christmas at Red Robin Cottage by Sue Roberts

Let it Snow by Beth Moran

Do you enjoy reading books set at Christmas? Have you read any of these?