A name that came up again and again prior to our trip to Amsterdam was Vleminckx. Here, in a tiny hole in the wall, the best Flemish frites could be found, they all said. And they were right.

There’s almost always a line there but it moves quickly. Choose one of three available cone sizes of frites and then your sauce (or combination of sauces).

Vleminckx

We had our chips topped with mayonnaise and ketchup – mayonnaise was the way to go! The Dutch mayo (or is it fritessaus?) is supremely creamy and has a touch of sweetness that goes with the salty chips very well. The chips themselves were perfectly (double) fried – crispy outsides, fluffy insides. Why can’t everyone make fries this way?!

Mayo and Ketchup

We went back on our last day when the weather had decided to warm up. This time, patatje oorlog (literally ‘war fries’) – frites topped with mayonnaise, satay sauce and chopped onions. It’s a crazy combination that works…and I’m drooling over my keyboard as I think about it. I was a bit skeptical of the satay sauce they use on chips in the Netherlands but this completely converted me. Sure, it’s a bit peanut buttery but it’s just so good.

Patatje Oorlog

One Dutch man was singing the praises of his chosen samourai sauce and that’s what I’ll have next time, I reckon!

Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx
Voetboogstraat 33
1012 Amsterdam

The weather’s cooled again, there’s the Olympics to watch on the telly – it’s the perfect time to make perogies! If you’re not familiar with these eastern European dumplings, you’re in for a treat. These boiled dumplings are usually stuffed with potato, sauerkraut, meat, cheese, mushrooms or even fruit for a sweet version. Sometimes they’re even fried after they’ve been boiled.

Perogies

I grew up with them in Canada – it was immigrants who brought it over the Atlantic. Bags of frozen ones are easily found in most supermarkets and they are cooked up easily and they’re what I remember eating at home as a treat. (I’ve read that they’re also popular in the States though I’m not sure how available they are.) The most popular filling in Canada (and Poland) is potato and cheese. While fresh white cheese would be used in Poland (and what’s found in the frozen sections of Polish shops here), in Canada cheddar is the cheese of choice. I had to make them at home, I missed them so (don’t get me started on the bags of frozen hash browns you cannot get here in London).

Perogies

Of course, these far surpassed any of the frozen ones we used to get. I made a filling of potato, cheddar cheese and fried onions and tried a perogy dough recipe I found online. After boiling them, I tossed them with fried onions and bacon, just as my mother used to serve them (and apparently the way they also serve them in Poland). Homemade is the way to go!

Potato and Cheddar Perogies
adapted from this Canadian Living recipe.
makes about 40-45.

For the dough
3 cups (750ml) plain flour
1.5 tsp salt
1 egg
175 ml water
4 tsp sunflower oil

For the filling
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
100g mature yellow cheddar
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping
100g lardons
2 medium-large onions, sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sunflower oil

To make the dough, mix together all the dough ingredients and then knead the mixture until smooth. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

For the filling, first boil the potatoes as you would to make mash. While the potatoes are boiling, heat the oil and butter in a frying pan over medium-low heat and fry the chopped onion until they’re just starting to turn golden. Set aside. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and mash them and let them cool. When cool, mix in the onions and grated cheddar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To form the perogies, roll out a portion of dough thinly (less than 2mm thick) and cut out 3 inch rounds. On each round, place a teaspoon of filling, moisten the edges with a dab of water and fold in half, pressing the edges together to seal. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling. Don’t stack the perogies at this stage but place them in a single layer on a tea towel without their touching each other.

Perogies, Ready for Cooking

Create the topping. Heat the butter and sunflower oil together in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and fry until golden. Add the lardons and continue cooking until the lardons are browning as are the onions. Set aside and keep warm.

Set a large pot of water to the boil. When the water is boiling, place about 6-8 perogies into the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the perogies float. Drain with a slotted spoon and mix them with the topping. Repeat until all the perogies are cooked and all are mixed together with the onions and bacon. (You can also fry the boiled perogies together with the onion and bacon.) Serve, with some sour cream/crème fraîche on the side if desired.

The uncooked perogies can be frozen (individually, so they don’t stick to each other) and cooked from frozen later.

A big hello to readers who found this blog via Charmaine Mok‘s article on food blogging in the April issue of Delicious magazine! Welcome – feel free to look around and say hi! Just a little addendum to the article: my surname is not Ong – this is an error. And now back to the previously scheduled blog post…

Did the groundhog get it wrong this year? I thought we were supposedly heading into spring with all this sunshine but the temperatures dipped this week and now I’m confused. To combat the chilliness last weekend, I took the opportunity to finally make a dish I’d had on my list for ages – and it’s a particularly wintery one.

Tartiflette

The dish of tartiflette hails from the region of Savoie in France (in the Alps: it’s no wonder they come up with rib sticking dishes) and its main ingredients are potatoes, cheese, bacon and onion. They’re a classic combination (certainly used here in the past) but to me, it’s the way the cheese is simply laid on top of the hot potatoes, its soft insides melting all over and forming a cheesy sauce that makes tartiflette quite special. As you can imagine, it’s a particularly rich dish that demands a salad on the side, dressed with a sharp mustardy vinaigrette.

A Serving

Judging from all the sneezing I’ve been doing while I was typing this up, I think this winter warmer is still quite suitable for this weather.

Tartiflette
adapted from Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook.
serves 2-3.

approximately 700g waxy potatoes
200g smoked lardons
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup white wine (I used some leftover cava)
1 clove garlic
1/2 a Reblochon cheese
3 tbsps creme fraiche
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel your potatoes and slice them all thinly. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the fats and then saute the onion until soft and translucent. Add in the lardons and continue cooking for a few minutes. Finally, add the potatoes and saute, stirring often for about 5 minutes. Pour in the wine, slap on a cover and let steam and cook until the potatoes are almost fully cooked (you’ll want to stir them from time to time).

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 240 Celsius. Lightly crush your garlic clove and use it to rub the inside of a gratin dish (big enough to fit everything! Adjust your ingredients if required for its size).

When the potatoes are tender, turn off the heat and stir through the creme fraiche. Season with plenty of black pepper and some salt (taste your lardons for saltiness).

Pour the potato mixture into your prepared gratin dish. Slice your half a Reblochon into half (as shown in the photo below) and arrange the cheese rind side up on top of the mixture.

Before Baking

Place the dish into the oven (I suggest placing it on a lined baking sheet to catch any drippings). Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 200 Celsius and continue baking for 15 minutes. At the end of this time, turn off the oven and leave the tartiflette in for 10 minutes.

Serve while hot, with lots of salad on the side! Make sure everyone gets a good helping of the toasted Reblochon rind in their serving.

Normally, I am absolutely terrible with leftovers. They tend to sit in the fridge where I ignore them and they go off or I just reheat them and eat a boring meal which reminds me of the meal from the day before – oh wait, it *is* the same meal. Unless I plan something in advance, I’m unlikely to grab those leftovers and make something new and exciting from them. It’s not like I don’t know what to do with them – I know that leftover pasta can be mixed with eggs to make a pasta frittata, leftover stews can go into a pie, leftover roasts into salads or sandwiches or soups – but when faced with something that needs using up, my mind goes blank instantly and I resort to heating it up and eating it as is. Dull dull dull. (Well, unless it’s a cold cooked sausage – those are nice!) How do you deal with leftovers?

But no, I will learn to use leftovers more creatively – I have managed a little in the past! Recently, I found myself with a quantity of leftover mashed potatoes from a meal of sausages and mash. The last thing I wanted was to reheat it and stick a few more sausages into it and so I actually had to think about it for a while before coming up with fish cakes. I like the fish cakes I’ve had in restaurants – surely I could make something like that with leftover mash and a tin of tuna? Call them poor man’s fish cakes if you must.

Tuna and Potato Cakes

This is a very basic recipe and it’s easy to enhance it with more herbs, some chopped vegetables or even substitute the tuna for cooked salmon or chopped leftover cooked meats.

Tuna and Potato Cakes
serves 2-3.

about 600g leftover mashed potatoes
1 tin tuna packed in oil
a small handful parsley
salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
dry breadcrumbs
sunflower oil for frying

Flake the tuna and mix it and the parsley with the mashed potatoes. Season with lots of pepper and salt if needed (your leftover mashed potatoes are probably already seasoned well).

In a small shallow bowl, beat the egg along with about 2 teaspoons of water. In another small shallow bowl or plate, fill with dry breadcrumbs. Form fish cakes/patties out of the mashed potato mixture – I find it easiest to form a tight round sphere and then gently flatten it. Dip the cake into the beaten egg, making sure to coat it entirely, and then toss it through the breadcrumbs. Set aside. Continue with the rest of mixture – I ended up making about 15 from the amount I had.

Prep

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and pour in sunflower oil to about a 1cm depth. Fry the cakes in batches (don’t overcrowd the pan) for a couple minutes on each side, until they’re golden brown.

Frying the Cakes

Drain them on kitchen paper and serve with a wedge of lemon and salad on the side.

It started with some random thoughts on pastries and potato pies early in the week. By the middle of the week, the focus was on filo pastry, those fragile sheets that require lots of melted butter and that bake up shatteringly crisp. At the end of the week, these daydreamy thoughts threatened to take over every waking moment I had and something had to be done about them! After running some ideas past Mirna, I came up with the following idea.

A Bacon, Cheese and Onion Filo Spiral

I wanted a contrast to the crisp exterior of filo and so soft and creamy mashed potatoes would be the filling. But just mashed potatoes would be boring, no? How about some chopped browned onions mixed in? And then while I was at it, I fried some pancetta too and stirred that through. And then, heck, why not? Some grated cheese at the end. And this is what I came up with! We had them with some salad for dinner but they’d make a lovely snack or light lunch (that is, if you serve only one and refrain from gorging on them!).

Spiral Filling

If you’re not keen on the shape, after rolling the potato mixture into the filo, you can cut the cylinder into shorter lengths and bake it like that.

Bacon, Cheese and Onion Filo Spirals
makes 8.

For the filling
4 medium sized baking potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large onion, chopped
70g pancetta, chopped
olive oil
3 tbsps milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few handfuls of grated mature cheddar

For the pastries
8 sheets of filo pastry
melted butter

To make the filling, place the potatoes in a pot, cover with water and bring to the boil. Boil until they are soft and ready for mashing. In the meantime, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the chopped onions over a low-medium heat until they are starting to brown. Add the pancetta and fry until it has cooked and the oil rendered out. When the potatoes are done, drain them and return them to the pot for mashing, also throwing in the milk. Mash, mash, mash! Stir through the onions and pancetta and salt and pepper to taste. When the filling has had a chance to cool down, stir through the grated cheese.

To make the pastries, firstly preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Take a sheet of filo pastry (take care to keep the other sheets covered to prevent them from drying out – a damp tea towel is good for this) and lay it on your board/workspace. Brush the whole sheet with melted butter. Along one end, put an eighth of the filling (about 2 heaping tablespoons) and then roll up the entire sheet – you should have a long cylinder of filo pastry with the filling through the middle. Coil the cylinder into a snail shape but you can also slice the cylinder into smaller tube shapes. Lay the pastry on a lined baking sheet and brush the tops and sides with more melted butter. Repeat with the rest of the filo sheets and the filling.

When all the pastries are ready, slip the tray into the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve.

Filo Spirals