Of stereotypes and flowers
When I am traveling and I tell people I am from Holland, I usually get the same response. It tends to be something in the line of: “Oh, so you´re from Amsterdam. Do you smoke a lot of marihuana?” I have to admit it is an understandable reaction in a way, but it always makes me happy when I find someone who knows a bit more about the country. Or when someone at least also starts talking about other famous aspects of Holland like wooden shoes, windmills, and cheese. But the marihuana aside, recently I saw many photos on social media from friends who visited Holland for another famous plant: the tulip.
Although those flowers are not originally Dutch, they were probably brought over from Turkey, they have been cultivated in Holland since the 16th century. The tulip bulbs eventually got an important place in the country´s economy. Their importance was such that they even let to the first proper economic bubble in history, named tulip mania: The flowers became extremely popular during the Dutch Golden Age as a luxury product. Because of their popularity the contracts for tulip bulbs were traded on the stock markets against exorbitant prices. In the year 1637 those prices collapsed, leading to the first market crash ever.
Even though the flowers are now not of such importance anymore, they are still a large export product and a lovely tourist attraction as well. In spring Holland is full of fields that are covered in flowers of all colours. Whereas most tourists visit the tulip fields close to Amsterdam, with my family I used to go to the fields close to my parents´ place. As far as you can see there are tulip fields in many bright colours and with different shapes of flowers. You can just drive around there through the fields and stop wherever you want to take pictures or go for a short hike between the flowers. Even when you have seen it many times, it is still an amazing sight. It does really look like a painter came by to brighten up the surroundings.
Looking at my pictures of the tulip fields inspired me to use some of the vegetables I see in the store every day to resemble the brightness and diversity of those fields. So I tried to bring the colours and live of the flowers to the plate, like on a beautiful spring day in Holland.
White fish with spring vegetables and fried ginger
This dish has two types of purées, a parsnip and a beetroot one. The contrast of the white and the red of the purées reminds me of the different colours of the tulips. The peas and turnips are in season in spring and add some crunch and the feeling of spring time.
Ingredients (for two as a main course)
- 2 white fish – I used seabream, they should be whole but gutted and scaled
- 4 small beetroots
- 4 parsnips
- 2 turnips
- Fresh peas – around 450 grams with their pods, or 200 grams shelled
- Fresh coriander – a small bunch
- 2 lemons
- Garlic – 3 cloves
- Ginger – a piece of around 3 centimeters long
- Cumin – 1 heaped teaspoon
- 1 green chilli
- Double cream – just a dash
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil or another neutral oil
- Salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Wrap the beetroots each separately in aluminium foil. Also wrap the parsnips in aluminium foil, together with two unpeeled cloves of garlic. Place them all in the oven and leave the packages in for around 50 minutes. Check now and then whether the vegetables have become soft and roasted through.
Now it is time to prepare all the other ingredients. First of all, shell the peas. Slice the third clove of garlic very thinly. Take the seeds out of the chilli and cut it as well. Finely chop half of the coriander. Peel both turnips and slice them in thin strips. Do the same with half of the ginger. Grate the other half of the ginger on a fine grater.
Bring a small pot with salted water to a boil and blanch the peas for around 5 minutes, until they start to become tender.
In a small pan, roast the cumin for a few minutes until it is fragrant and set it aside. Add some olive oil to the same pan and add the sliced garlic, chilli, and grated ginger. When this mixture starts to smell nicely, add the peas. Fry for a few minutes until the peas are tender but still have some bite. Add salt to taste. Let this cool down and mix in the pieces of turnip and the chopped coriander. Dress with some olive oil and lemon juice.
The next step is to prepare the fish. Pat them really dry with a piece of kitchen paper, both from the outside and from the inside. Season with salt and pepper, also both the inside and the outside. Rub a bit of olive oil all over the fish. Cut some slices of lemon and stuff the inside of both fish with the lemon and the left over coriander.
By now the vegetables in the oven should be roasted. Start by making the parsnip puree. The beetroot will colour everything red, so it is better to do this after. Peel the parsnips and the garlic and blend them together into a smooth purée. Transfer the purée into a fine sieve and use a spoon to push the mixture through the sieve. This will remove all lumps and provide you with a very smooth and soft texture. Add a little bit of cream to the parsnips and season with salt and pepper to taste. The oven should still be warm from roasting the vegetables, so place the purée in the oven to keep it warm. Clean your blender and add the peeled beetroots and the cumin. Blend this mixture as well and push it through the sieve again. Similar to the parsnip purée, add salt, pepper, and cream to taste. Keep the beetroot purée warm in the oven as well.
Finally, it is time to roast the fish and deep fry the ginger. Place a grill pan without any oil over high heat. Simultaneously, add a layer of the sunflower oil of around 2 centimeters deep to a small pot and heat this up as well. When the grill pan is screaming hot, carefully add the fish to the pan. Leave the fish on there for around 4 minutes, the exact time depends on the type and the size of the fish, without touching it. Then, try to carefully turn it around. If the skin still sticks to the pan, leave it for a bit longer. Once the skin does not stick to the pan anymore, turn the fish around. Give it another 4 minutes on the other side. Meanwhile, when the oil in the pot is hot, add the strips of ginger you have cut before. Fry the ginger until it starts to turn golden brown, around 5 minutes. Carefully take it out of the oil and place on paper towel to drain. Sprinkle some salt over the ginger.
When both the fish and the ginger are done, it is time to serve. Add both purées and the peas to the plate. You can serve the fish whole, but also just serve the fillets. If you want to serve the fillets, carefully take the skin off the fish. Using two spoons, you can easily slide the fillets of the bone. Lastly, add the fried ginger to the plate and serve with some wedges of lemon.