Sunday, August 7, 2011

Leiden Saturday Market

Yesterday we went to Leiden's Saturday Market along the Nieuwe Rijn. It's an entertaining mix of farmer's market meets flea market with some carnival-type music thrown in. My favorite stalls were definitely the ones selling cheese (surprise, surprise), fish, and bread. We ended up snacking on two delicious snacks: 1) the traditional Dutch “haring broodje” (herring sandwich) 2) a warm, fresh apple turnover. As I understand, herring are caught in the Spring (May and June) when their fat content is high (>15%) and are swallowed whole and raw, a Dutch tradition. These herrings are called “Hollandse Nieuwe.” The rest of the year the herring is generally salt cured or pickled. There are stands all over both Leiden and Amsterdam selling Hollandse Nieuwe and haring broodje – it's a quick, inexpensive snack. I actually really liked my sandwich (they normally come “met uien,” “with onions” but while I love raw fish, raw onions are not my thing). I would recommend actually just getting the fish on it's own, sans bun! The fish is tasty, slightly salty, definitely unlike sashimi one may find in a Japanese restaurant.

I have to also mention the apple turnover because apple desserts are AMAZING in the Netherlands. In my two weeks here, I have had two slices of apple pie and this apple turnover at three different locations and all have been spectacular. Compared to apple pie that I've had (or made!) at home, the apple pie here is less sweet, generally more spiced with fresh apples that are cooked to a perfect consistency (e.g. they still have a slight tart crunch to them beneath the cooked softness). The crust is also less sweet and more toothsome (is that a word?!) - and let's face it, a good crust is one of the most important parts of an apple pie. Finally, it always comes with fresh, homemade whipped cream – no reddi-whip = love!

The cheese stalls at the Leiden Market were surprisingly challenging for us to navigate mainly due to the number of people (hence, the sense that one must order quickly) and the fact that many of the cheeses there are new to us. We have learned the word “Boerenkaas,” which means farmer's cheese. This label means the cheese is guaranteed to be made on a farm using traditional methods of preparation. I think this label also means that at least 50% of the milk used to make the cheese must come from animals on the cheesemaker's own farm and the other 50% can come from no more than two other farms. Anyways, we ended up coming home with a 30 month aged gouda and a piquant chevre – the latter becoming part of a simple, but delicious, spinach, local plum, and balsamic salad.

Finally, one last food-related note [in this post at least] before I completely bore all of our many readers (aka- my lactose intolerant parents!): we stumbled upon a great cheese store in Amsterdam this weekend. De Kaasmaker is located in the nine streets area of Amsterdam (a great, little shopping area of the city) and has a TON of both local and international cheeses and cured meats. We ended up leaving there with an aged boerenkaas from Friesland, a state in the northern part of the Netherlands. The cheese most associated with this region is one that contains cloves and cumin. Leiden, where we live, is known for “Leidsekaas,” which is a local cheese that contains cumin seeds – we have yet to try this but I imagine its presence in our near degustatory future.

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