So, Amsterdam was as cool as everyone said, in an effortless, laid back kind of way. It’s a brilliant city for a short break with (or maybe even better without) kids, entirely walkable and offering as much, or in our case, as little, as you care to do. It was a typical city break for us in that we spent about four hours per day pounding the pavements and about the same amount of time sitting in restaurants since my husband, and now my eldest, cannot seem to go for more than two hours without a full-blown feed. I’m not complaining; I’ll take a cold beer and pile of croquettes over a worthy trawl around tourist-rammed Anne Frank’s house any day (I know this makes me a BAD person).
Here are some other observations:
- Despite being something like the fifth safest place in the world, Amsterdam’s streets have to be the most hazardous for pedestrians in the world (although admittedly I haven’t been to Mumbai). If you are not mown down by one of the million bikes, ridden here with entitlement and determination, there’s a good chance you’ll be taken out by a tram speeding from the other direction.
- Many of the houses look like they are about to fall on your head. I’ve read that this is intentional, but in some cases, I just don’t believe it. Looky here…
- The red light district is not a good place to go with children unless you have, in advance, thought up answers to the inevitable barrage of awkward questions, for example, ‘what is a condom, mummy?’ and ‘what is that funny smell?’ (see also below).
- When your 14 year old asks for a latte, make sure the coffee shop you are sending him into actually sells coffee.
- There’s a whole lot more to Van Gogh than starry nights and sunflowers, that is if you manage to see the paintings through the six-deep crowd flocking around each.
- Cool graffiti (or perhaps I should say street art).
And the all important food and drink…
- The Amsterdammers love a burger and are very happy (and permitted) to serve one to you cooked rare. Their bananas may be straight but their burgers are proper juicy.
- But not as much as chips. They go fucking mad for chips. Patat here are not a side order, but a meal in their own right.
- We didn’t try herring, but the gouda, pancakes and stroopwafels were delicious (although not all together).
- Oranjeboom isn’t a thing here (I don’t think it ever was). Here it is all about Brand Bier (quite tasty), or Bavaria or Heineken (not so much).
- They like to serve all manner of deep fried food with their beers, in particular those Dutch croquettes I mentioned – bitterballen – which are typically filled with bechamel, minced veal and nutmeg. Yum, but also the reason why I gained an alarming four pounds in as many days, why I am now on a drastic punishment diet and hence today’s rather virtuous recipe.
Wasabi salmon with
punishment superfood salad
This is actually really nice and doesn’t taste like penance at all. I have served this salmon before at a dinner party, poshing it up with a shaved fennel and orange salad and blobs of avocado puree (essentially a very smooth guacamole) and creme fraiche, but it’s quick and easy enough for a midweek meal. (No, my kids won’t go near the salad but they will tolerate the salmon.) Here I served it with a dollop of minty yogurt on the side.
For the salmon
- 4 lightly smoked salmon fillets (skin on)
- 4 handfuls wasabi peas
- zest of 1 lime
- wasabi paste or horseradish (optional)
- Roughly crush the wasabi peas in a mortar and pestle, then stir in the lime zest.
- Smear a thin layer of wasabi paste or horseradish (or olive oil if not using) over the top of each salmon fillet, then sprinkle over the crushed wasabi peas, pressing them into the flesh slightly as you go.
- Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake in an oven preheated to 200°C (fan) for 8 minutes. (If you want to crisp the skin, fry the fillets skin side down in a little olive oil for 2 minutes before transferring them to the oven).
For the salad
These quantities are rough so add more or less of what you like. This is also good as a veggie meal on its own, either with crumbled feta or cubes of roasted butternut squash.
- 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked as per packet instructions
- 1/2 cup puy lentils, ditto
- 1/2 cup cooked petit pois
- 1 cup defrosted shelled edamame beans (available from Ocado)
- 1/2 small bunch mint, leaves chopped
- juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp cider vinegar
- pinch chilli flakes
- generous pinch salt
- pinch sugar
- black pepper
- Whisk together the last six ingredients in a large bowl then whisk in an equivalent amount of extra virgin olive oil to the liquid you already have.
- Add the cooked grains, pulses, peas and chopped mint and stir to coat with dressing. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.