Archive for Writings

Happy new year!

I wish you all a very happy and healthy 2013!

 

New: Homemade by Ena on facebook and pinterest!

Homemade by Ena can be found on facebook and pinterest from now on! Just use the social media buttons in the side-bar.

Homemade by Ena on facebook is in Dutch, and is at the moment mainly used to showcase all the tarts, pies, cakes, cookies and pastries I make. Most of them will show up after a while on the blog as well (I am always running a bit behind with posting recipes). By having an overview of all the things I baked, people who want to order something from me can browse them easily for inspiration and to see what is possible.

Homemade by Ena on pinterest is in English, and is used to pin inspiration and recipes. So if you want to have a look into where I get my inspiration, be sure to take a look at my boards regularly! They are a bit empty at this moment, but I will add more stuff soon and I will keep adding nice things that I stumble upon, including some boards for my other hobbies and interests.

Environmentally conscious fruit and vegetables

It can be quite difficult to shop environmentally conscious for food.There are so many factors involved and producers are not always clear or honest about their methods. Only by reading labels it is virtually impossible to find out what is good and what is not good. Especially with all the quality marks that actually mean nothing…

Luckily, for fruit and vegetables there is a calender that uses a classification to show how environmentally friendly a product is if you buy it in the Netherlands. There is a summary with 15 veggies and 15 fruits that are environmentally friendly available in a certain month, and there is a (quite) complete overview of all products, also the very bad ones, again sorted per month.

The classification is based on the amount of greenhouse gasses that are released due to the cultivation, the use of chemical fertilizer and crop protection products (pesticides, herbicides, etc) and the transport of 1 kg product. There is no distinction made between organic and non-organic products, because these don’t use chemical fertilizer and crop protection products, but still can be grown in heated hothouses or transported by plane. I think it is a pity that other sustainable and environmentally friendly initiatives and practices are not taken into account, because there are a lot more factors involved than only the greenhouse gasses, but this is a good start.

Labels A and B are used for products that are environmentally friendly or quite environmentally friendly. These are fruit and vegetables grown outside in the Netherlands and surrounding countries, or products imported by sea ships or by truck from Southern Europe.
Label C is used for products that are not really environmentally friendly. These are products grown in the Netherlands in heated greenhouses, perishable products that are flown in from quite close, or products by ship that come from far away.
Labels D and E are not environmentally friendly at all. These are products that are flown in from far, or are grown intensively in heated greenhouses. Often these are perishable products like soft fruit.

Vegetables and fruits that are always environmentally friendly in the Netherlands are: potato, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, courgette, iceberg lettuce, cucumber, leeks, turnips, red cabbage, winter carrot, green cabbage, white cabbage, pineapple, banana, grapes, coconut, mandarin, mango, plum and orange.

Other things you can do to be environmentally conscious about your food are:
– Meat production burdens the environment, especially cow and lamb. It costs a lot of energy and produces a lot of CO2 and other greenhouse/polluting gasses. Veal, chicken, eggs, pork and cheese are less burdening, and vegetable proteins like pulses and soy are the least burdening. So vary your protein sources and use plant based proteins regularly.
– Source your products locally. Transport costs a lot of energy and produces a lot of polluting gasses, especially if the transport is by plane.
– Use less plastic. When you go shopping for groceries, take your own shopping bag. And don’t put all the fruit and veggies in plastic bags, things like banana and apples really don’t need a bag, you can get them home easily without one.
– Grow your own herbs in your garden, on your balcony or in your window sill. The herb plants you buy at the supermarket have a very poor root system and will die after 1 or 2 weeks, whatever you do. The plants you grow yourself will last the whole summer, or even multiple summers in the case of thyme and things like that.
– Buy only the products you need, make sure you store them in the right way, finish them before they spoil and use leftovers from a meal as lunch the next day, or use them up in another meal. In this way, you don’t have to throw away any food. And throw away preservable products like pasta, rice, canned stuff, etc only when they look or smell bad, not when the perishable date has past. Often these products can be kept longer, but the manufacturers are not allowed to put dates on there that are further in the future.
– Do your groceries by bike or on foot. Or go by car once a week, or even better: once per month, for the big stuff, and do the remaining groceries by bike.
– Cook on gas, as this is the most sparing. Use a lid on pans when cooking or simmering, this reduces heat loss. The flames of the gas pit should not curl around the pan, in that case the gas pit is too large for the pan, or the pan is too small for the gas pit. Don’t use a big oven for a small amount of food, if you use your oven try to use it for multiple things/larger amounts of food. For most dishes, preheating of the oven is not necessary. Also, the oven stays hot for a long time after you turn it off. Buy appliances that use the lowest amount of energy, buy a smaller size of something if you make mainly small portions. Also smaller fridges and freezers can spare a lot of energy. Don’t boil more water than you need and only make the amount of coffee that you will drink. A thermos flask is ideal for keeping hot drinks hot. Leaving appliances on a standby setting costs a lot of energy, so turn them completely off.

Meal planning

You might be wondering how I am able to cook all these lovely dishes while having a busy life and lots of other things to do. Actually, the answer is quite simple: planning. Every weekend my boyfriend and I take some time to plan what we will eat during the week. This depends on several things:
– What there is for sale. Because it safes quite some money we try to use products we like that are for sale in our week menu. Pantry products that are for sale we buy in larger amounts, but not that much that we cannot finish it before it spoils.
– What we have left in the fridge from the week before and if there are staple/pantry foods that are nearly expired.
– The weather. If it is rainy and cold you fancy other food than when it is sunny and 30+C.
– The week planning. For example, usually we have a bit more time available on Wednesdays, so then we cook a bit more complicated. But usually thursdays are very hectic, so then we cook something fast and easy. If we’re going out dishes tend to be lighter than when we stay in, and more of those considerations.
– And of course: what we fancy to eat.

On Saturdays we plan the meals for Saturday and Sunday. These are usually the days that we use to cook elaborate, and also a bit more luxurious. Also, we have more time to shop, so we can go to the market and all our favourite food stores in the city centre.

I make a list for every week, containing what we will eat which day, what there is for sale, what we need (pantry stuff that we finished) and what we still have left in the fridge. This makes it easy to see what you need to buy when you go for groceries. This planning also helps preventing products to spoil, because you list every week what you have left, and to buy only what you need. I hate to throw away food, I already was quite concious about that, but nowadays it is really rare that we have to throw away something. Did you know that the average Dutch person throws away 40 kilo (~150 euro) food per year? So an easy way to spare a few hundred euro per year and do something environmentally friendly is making sure you only buy what you need and to use up what you have in your fridge!

Having the list of what you eat each day is also nice because it can help choose what to eat when you’re feeling uninspired. We have a list of favourite dishes that we eat quite a lot, like pasta with meatballs, rice with chicken, or a hamburger, but we also try to make something new once during the week and once during the weekend. In that way, the list of favourite dishes keeps growing. Give it a try and you will see that it works!

About me

It took a while… but now it is there: the about me section! So if you want to know a bit more about me, check it out.

Under construction – part 2!

From now on all my blog posts, old and new, can be found here!

Under construction!

Very soon Ena’s blog will appear here. At the moment the blog can still be found on: annecookingblog.blogspot.com.

Soy sauce

Soy sauce is traditionally used a lot in Asian cuisine, both in cooking and as a condiment. It is produced by fermenting soy beans, often combined with a grain, with Aspergillus molds, water and salt. The fermentation yields a paste that is pressed to separate the liquid, which is the soy sauce, and solid residues that are used as animal feed. Today, soy sauce can also be produced chemically instead of by fermentation, which is much faster (3 days instead of 3 months), but has a different taste than the original soy sauce. There are many different varieties with their own flavour, texture and cooking properties, but all are salty, brownish liquids with umami taste, and work as a flavour enhancer. Originally making soy sauce was probably a way to stretch costly salt.

The three most commonly used soy sauces in the Western world are Chinese, Indonesian and Japanese, but almost all Asian countries have their own variety.
All Chinese soy sauces are made primarily with soy beans, with low amounts of other grains, and can roughly be divided in two categories, brewed and blended. Brewed soy sauce has no additives, it is only fermented, while blended is aged more and has additives to enhance the sweet and umami flavours. Light soy sauce (which can be seen on the photo below) is the most common example of the first category. It is quite thin, salty, has a light colouring and is used for seasoning and dipping. This is also the soy sauce I most use in cooking, for example for egg fried rice. Dark soy sauce is the most common example of the second category, which contains caramel and molasses to give it its dark, rich flavour and texture together with the prolonged ageing. It is less salty than light soy sauce and it is mainly used during cooking, because the flavour develops during heating. For me, this soy sauce is too distinct in flavour, it is difficult to not let it overpower the dish.
Because of the colonial history of the Netherlands in Indonesia (back then Dutch West Indies), ketjap (also kecap) is most often used as soy sauce in the Netherlands, but in the rest of the world it is less well known. There are two main varieties, ketjap manis and ketjap asin. Ketjap manis (which can be seen on the photo below) is very thick, sweet and not so salty, because of the addition of palm sugar. I usually add it last-minute to a dish, because the flavour changes unpleasantly after too much heating, and it is also prone to burning. This is my preferred soy sauce for making nasi goreng. Ketjap asin is a salty soy sauce similar to Chinese light soy sauce, but slightly thicker and has a stronger flavour.
Japanese soy sauces are generally made with quite high amounts of grains and are very salty. As you can see on the photo below, I have a bottle of reduced salt Japanese soy, because the regular I think is much too salty. There are five very different variants, of which koikuchi is the most common.

So, next time when a recipe asks for soy sauce, think about which kind it should be. Generally you are safest by using Chinese light soy, because of its quite neutral flavours. But when cooking Indonesian or Japanese dishes, your dishes will greatly improve by using the appropriate soy sauce.

In the Netherlands ordinary Japanese and ketjap can be bought at the supermarket. Although I think that some supermarkets have reduced salt Japanese and Chinese soy sauce in their assortment, not all have it. In that case, check your local toko or Asian supermarket.

Soy Sauce

Updated food links

I updated my favourite food links. Check them out for new inspirational websites!

Cream and fat content

You might think that cream is a very simple thing. Well, it isn’t. All countries name their creams differently, sometimes things with the same name are something completely different, and in some countries some kinds of cream aren’t even available. So it can be quite tricky to find out which cream you need for which recipe, or how to substitute the cream called for in the recipe. I sorted the creams on fat content.

Diet/light cream
There is a light version available from many of the creams I describe below. Personally I don’t use these, if I eat cream, I want to eat something that is the real deal, tastes like the real deal and doesn’t contain al sorts of additives that try to make a light product taste like the real deal. I am a firm believer to eat balanced, to once in a while splurge on cream or cookies, and eat less fat things the rest of the time. But if you like to use a light product, take into account that even though the producers tried to make its properties similar to the original product, they not always are. This can cause recipes to fail.

Half cream/half and half
Half cream is the British name, half and half the American. It has a fat percentage of 12%. It can be prepared by combining 1/2 cup of milk with a 1/2 cup of single cream.
Half cream (halfroom) is also a Dutch type of cream with a fat content of 10-20%, but I have never actually seen it in the shop.

Coffee cream (koffieroom or schenkroom)
A Dutch cream variant with a fat content of 15-20%. It is most often used as coffee creamer.

Cooking cream(kookroom)
Has a fat content of 18-20% and contains binding agents and sometimes flavouring agents as well. Can be used in hot dishes safely, because of the binding agents it will not split. A light alternative to whipping cream.

Single cream
A British cream variant with 18-20% fat. It can be substituted with cooking cream, coffee cream or sour cream, depending on the recipe. I often use whipping cream without problems.

Sour cream (zure room)
Has a fat content of 20%. It is slightly acidic because lactic acid bacteria are added. It is most often used in cold sauces, in hot sauces it can be added when the sauce is taken of the heat (and not boiled any more afterwards) to prefend splitting. Splitting can also be prefented by stirring (1 tablespoon of) flour or maizena through (250 ml) of sour cream.

Whipping cream (slagroom)
The most often used cream in the Netherlands. It should have a fat content of 35-40%, just as it’s foreign counterparts, but quite often it doesn’t. The sterilized whipping cream you can keep for a long time out of the fridge has a fat content of 30%, which causes difficulties to whip it stiffly, and it will get watery much faster than creams with a higher fat content. The more expensive brands of whipping cream that you can find in the dairy cooler of the supermarket, sometimes have a fat content of 35%.
It is suitable to use in hot dishes due to the high fat content, but when boiling it for a longer time, or when the dish is quite acidic, it can still split.
It is sometimes called pouring cream (don’t confuse with Dutch pouring cream).

Personally, I always keep some of the cartons of sterilized whipping cream in my pantry, because they store so well. Usually, when I need cream, I use these cartons. It works fine in hot dishes, and to pour over things, and for whipped cream. But when I want stiff cream, when the fat content of the cream is really important in a recipe, or just when I fancy it, I use the higher fat content cream from the cooler.

Crème fraiche
Has a fat content of 35%. Comparable to sour cream, because lactic acid bacteria are added ad well. It has a slighly fresh and sour taste and can be used in sweet and savoury dishes. It can be used in hot dishes, although there is still a risk of splitting.

Double cream
A British cream variant that has a fat content of at least 48% (which can still be poured), but can be much higher (can be scooped). It is not available in the Netherlands, and I haven’t found a good substitute either. It is sometimes suggested that a mixture of mascarpone (60-80% fat) and whipping cream in a 1:2 ratio.
It is sometimes called pure cream (the highest fat percentage and therefore the most pure).

Heavy cream
An American cream variant with a fat content of at least 36%. Usually it is possible to substitue with whipping cream with the highest possible fat content that you can find, or crème fraiche.

Clotted cream
A British cream variant containing 55% fat. It is very thick and fat and is THE accompaniment of scones. It is prepared by simmering full-fat milk softly for hours. The thick clots of cream that will float on top are scooped of. It is possible to prepare this yourself (google for recipe), but is quite labour intensive and the yield is low. It is available in some supermarkets (Jumbo), cheese mongers and deli-shops, but is is quite expensive. You can substitute clotted cream by folding 125 g crème fraiche/whipped cream into 100 g mascarpone.