ROTTERDAM - “the gateway to Europe”
Ashley Farnell, The Culinary Magician
After leaving chefs school and working in England for the first 2 years, I decided to broaden my knowledge and culinary skills and apply for work in Europe. After sending many resumes to various places around Europe, I settled on working at the Hilton international in Rotterdam, Holland.
It was one of the finest 4 star hotels (5 star hotels need a swimming pool) and was easy access from my home town in England as it was right across the famous cold and dreaded North Sea (crossing this stretch of water even in summer can be windy, cold and bring on major bouts of sea sickness due to the choppy sea!)
After taking the ship across the water, we started to hit land at “EUROPOORT” which was the largest port in the world, at the time, but I think now is 2nd to Long Beach, California. We must have sailed for at least 1 hour up one of many deep water channels that make up the ports large terminal where the great ships and oil tankers go (very large oil terminal for “Shell Oil” ) passing some of the biggest ships I had ever seen. This is also where the famous river Rhine that winds its way through Europe hits the sea. Taking the bus from the terminal to the city, I knew Holland was built on a lot of reclaimed land from the sea and most of the country sits below sea level, but when driving around you can see for miles and miles because it’s so flat. And bicycles, well I’ve never seen so many, more on the roads than cars! (I to succumbed to the Dutch way of life and purchased a bicycle. Unfortunately, it was stolen. When I went to the local police and reported it stolen, I was laughed at by the police. They told me if every bike stolen was reported and dealt with they would need an extra police force. I was told to take somebody else’s!! They say the average Dutch family has 5 to 6 bikes at least)
While at the hotel I remember doing an elegant cocktail reception and dinner dance for NINA RICCI perfume. The guest of honour was NINA RICCI herself and she had her own personal chef co-ordinate the whole evening.
Another occasion was the EUROPEAN CUP FINAL of soccer for club sides (equivalent to the Stanley cup in North America) was held in Rotterdam in 1983 and the winners of the trophy were ASTON VILLA, who came from England and stayed at the hotel. I had the pleasure of meeting them and the trophy the day after the win.
The best experience though was in the summer of 1982, when the ROLLING STONES were starting their European tour in Rotterdam, and stayed at the hotel for the week prior to their 3 nights at the large "DE KUIP" soccer stadium with attendance of over 80,000 each night. I had the pleasure of meeting the members of the band, on their way to rehearsal and concerts as they would come through the back of kitchen to get to the detour mini bus which left from the back of the hotel to confuse the fans out at the front of the hotel. I also met them while they had dinner. And when I say dinner, I mean they had about 100 rooms booked in the hotel for the whole tour personnel and after each concert, once the restaurant had closed it was re-opened for the whole tour group from around 11.30 pm till 6 am the following morning. This is the time they would party, eat and drink, and finally retire to bed at 6 am to sleep till it was time to go the next concert. They were so nice to all the staff, true gentlemen, and gave many photos and autographs, which was not a common thing, especially to get the signature of Mick Jagger.
While in Holland I managed to travel around a lot, as the country is not very big. It has such wonderful people and culture and so many exiting things to see.
Of course I visited Amsterdam on many occasions (probably most weekends). It is such a lively city and to see certain things for the first time it is truly amazing.
Other cities I visited were Alkmaar, with its famous cheese market, where the cheeses are bought and sold wholesale and moved around by a group of dairy longshoremen who put on white uniforms, don straw hats with coloured ribbons, and carry wheels of cheese to and from a 14th Century weigh house on wooden barrows suspended from their shoulders. In Alkmaar, they're referred to as "cheese porters" (or the Dutch equivalent), and members of their various guilds have been helping to bring cheese buyers and sellers together for at least 600 years. Still, the Alkmaar Cheese Market remains a popular tourist spectacle, even if the real wheeling and dealing takes place among the big cheeses at the corporate level. The Alkmaar Cheese Market takes place in Alkmaar's main square every Friday at 10 a.m., from the second Friday in April to the second Friday in September.
Another city is Delft, famous for its pottery. Delft pottery is Tin-glazed earthenware, with blue-and-white or polychrome decoration, first made in the early 17th century Dutch potters later introduced the art of tin glazing to England along with the name, which now applies to wares manufactured in the Netherlands and England.
I visited The Hague, or in Dutch “Den Haag”. This is the where the palace of the Dutch royal family is situated, and also on the coast is the famous seaside resort town of “Scheveningen” with the famous Kurhaus Hotel. The name of this town was also used by the Dutch resistance as a password during World War II, because supposedly only the Dutch can pronounce it properly.
Here are 3 recipes the Dutch are famous for. 2 are from the Indonesian influence of the Dutch East Indies.
DUTCH LEEK SOUP
Yield: 8 servings
3/4 c Whole wheat flour
2 Cubes bouillon
2 qt Water
1 cup Milk
1/8 teasp Ground mace
5 Leeks, cleaned, chopped
1/4 c Whipping cream
2 c Shredded Edam or Gouda Cheese
Blend together flour, bouillon cubes and water. Stir in milk and mace. Bring to a boil; immediately reduce heat to simmer; simmer 10 minutes. Add
leeks and cream; simmer 10 minutes. Serve cheese with soup at the table.
1 onion, (cut into large pieces)
1 tbsp ginger powder
2 garlic cloves (minced)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp ketjap manis (sweet)*
2 tbsp water
Mix ingredients with pieces of meat and marinate it as long as possible. Use meat of your choice.
Place the meat pieces on shish kabob sticks, sprinkle with a little oil, and grill till the meat is thoroughly cooked.
Serve with peanut sauce.
This is Indonesian soy sauce; slightly thicker and sweeter than regular soy sauce. If you cannot buy commercial Ketjap Manis in your local market, you can follow this recipe.
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup water
1 cup soy sauce
7 Tablespoons dark molasses
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
PINDASAUS (peanut sauce)
2 tbsp oil
2-3 tsp cumin
2 garlic cloves (minced)
300g peanut butter
1 tsp ginger powder
Sambal Oelek to taste*
Heat the oil and add the cumin. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add onion, garlic and a teaspoon of Sambal (add more if you like it spicy!) Cook for 5 minutes. Add peanut butter. Cook for another few minutes.
Then add the ketchup (you can add a little more if you wish). Add water to desired consistency.
Finish off with blending in the ginger powder!
A staple in Malaysian and Thai cooking. Oelek means grinding, so Sambal Oelek means ground Chili (Sambal). This can also be frozen.
1 lb. red chilies
5 ½ oz. garlic, peeled and chopped
5 ½ oz. tender young ginger, peeled and chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced (white part only)
6 fluid oz. vinegar
8 oz. sugar
Salt, to taste
1 Tablespoon lime zest, chopped