Hangop with Fruit at Sterk Staaltje

Although I tend to cook a lot, sometimes I simply can’t find the time to drop by at the supermarket or simply don’t feel like it. This is when Sterk Staaltje often comes to the rescue. The store, run by a nice couple is a paradise for food lovers in a hurry. Opening daily at 8am it offers everything you need for a breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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You can find me at Sterk Staaltje most often in the mornings. Whenever milk or yoghurt ran out, it’s just a 2 minute walk to get some. And then quite often, I change the yoghurt for a bit of ‘Hangop met Fruit’. Hangop is a typical Dutch dessert, although Lin and me usually eat it in the mornings. It’s a creamy, very rich, strained yoghurt that also has vanilla. And it’s just… super delicious!

If your in the neighborhood, be sure to drop by at Sterk Staaltje (located on the Staalstraat 12) and get some Hangop with Fruit, or some of the other delicacies they all make themselves in the kitchen in the back of the store. Ready-made sandwiches, lasagnes, the best salads in town, it’s all super good!

Or, if your not in town anytime soon and still want to get a taste of handop, use the recipe below to get your own.

  • 1 liter full-fat yoghurt (yup, don’t do this if you’re on a diet)
  • clean kitchen towel (not a cheese cloth, you really need a towel)
  • seeds of a vanilla bean (please, don’t use extract)
  • sugar

Wet the kitchen towel, so that it’s just a bit humid. Next, put a colander in a big bowl. Pour the yoghurt in, put it in the fridge and leave it there for a night. The following morning, get the yoghurt from the fridge and get rid of the juice that came out. Add the vanilla seeds and some sugar (how much really all depends on your taste). Done!

Then, combine it with some fruit; strawberries, blue berries, raspberries, pineapple, mango, anything.

Yeah, I’ll Happily Pay €15 for a Pound of Beef

I’m on the verge of deciding to start paying more for products than supermarkets, airliners and retailers are asking for their products. I’m sick and tired of them not telling me what their products really cost. This may sound weird but hear me out.

Yesterday I attended a workshop on the topic of sustainable food and energy saving. A statement we discussed was “consumers will never pay a premium for sustainable food” and many attendees said they believed sustainable food should not induce a price premium. They fundamentally believed charging more for sustainability is wrong.

This is an interesting debate. When looking at the true cost of products, it is about much more than the manufacturing costs, costs for overhead and others costs you would find on a typical profit-and-loss sheet. When you factor in air pollution, deforestation, waste collection and many other externalities, the true cost will be much higher. Taking into account true cost is not happening in many sectors. 6 free range or organic eggs are much more expensive than 6 battery farm eggs, even though factoring in externalities would definitely compensate for this.

In a way I agree with not charging more for sustainability. On the flip side though I think we should start charging much more for unsustainable products.

Attending the workshop which was organized by THNK were CSR officers from Ahold (Stop & Shop, Albert Heijn), KLM, ING, Shell and IKEA and I found some of their beliefs striking as they are the ones partly responsible for what price we as consumers end up paying.

Later that day I was reminded of an article I read on HBR titled Companies Must Account for the True Cost of Their Products. Somewhere half-way the article:

It’s easy to understand why the business community is forever working overtime to reject this full-cost accounting and create ever more imaginative arguments against paying for externalities. According to a recent United Nations study, if the world’s biggest companies actually had to pay for the environmental harm they cause, the bill would come to $2.2 trillion a year and reduce profits by one-third.

The article is part of a debate on HBR from 2010 titled What Business Owed the World and it provides a wealth of insights, arguments and discussions on the topic of externalities, true costs and sustainability in the context of business.

I believe that if offered the choice between two more or less comparable products consumers will always choose the unsustainable over the sustainable one if it is the cheapest alternative. For a comparable flight from Amsterdam to Milan, people will not pay €200 instead of €100 solely based on the fact the more expensive option will not harm the environment. Taking this argument further, there are three options as far as I can see:

  • Leaving the customer no choice be simply not offering the unsustainable product – some companies such as Marqt (‘organic’ supermarket in Holland) do this but the majority doesn’t
  • All companies themselves and voluntarily taking into account the true cost of their products when pricing them for consumers – referring to the above it is safe to say this is not going to happen any time soon
  • Policy makers forcing business’ to pay for the true cost of their products (which will then in turn find its way to consumer prices) – I don’t see any signs this is happening in any but a few sectors

In the debate on HBR, especially in the article titled Embracing Externalities is the Road to Hell one can read a lot of information that helped me make up my mind about this.

I believe neither of the three options above will be happening on a large-scale anytime soon. This is quite pessimistic or so it may seem.

I think I’m going to have to take matters into my owns hand and take into account the true cost of the products I’m purchasing myself. Paying €15,= for a pound of beef is no fun, so my guess is, I’ll eat less of it as a result (this is in fact already happening, as I’m doing most of my groceries at Marqt, where a pound of beef is priced at around €15). Paying €300 for a return ticket to Italy instead of only €90? I’ll think twice about that. Paying €4 for a plastic bag at the supermarket instead of €0.35? No way.

I’m not sure what to do with the difference between the (self made up) true cost of anything I purchase and the market price (which is what I really end up paying). I’m sure as hell not going to give it to guys that I’m purchasing the products from. Should I put it into a savings account? Donate it to WWF? Give it to homeless people? Suggestions welcome. I’m also not sure if this helps at all. I’m also not sure how to end up at the true price I should ‘pay’. Suggestions here are also welcome.

Yotam Ottolenghi versus Jamie Oliver

I’m not sure if you should compare the two, but I couldn’t help but do this after I accidentally made two very similar dishes this week, one by Yotam Ottolenghy and one by Jamie Oliver. Jamie’s iPhone app has a recipe for a Thai-style chicken salad. It has charred onions, chicken, mango, beansprouts, peanuts and more. Then, yesterday I ran into the recipe for a Vietnamese beef salad by Yotam Ottolenghi. Very similar vegetables in there and it also comes with charred onions, but then again, it’s chicken versus beef, a sour dressing versus a sweet-n-sour dressing, Vietnamese versus Thai…

So actually comparing the two is hard, but I still preferred the Ottolenghi recipe. Although both were very nice, the Vietnamese beef salad had flavors that were much more balanced and lingered much longer than those of the recipe by Jamie Oliver. Nice, really nice! (the picture shows the Jamie recipe by the way)

While we’re speaking about food, let me also share you my favorite breakfast dish as of last Sunday: quinoa with cinnamon, nuts and other niceties.

Cook your quinoa (black, white, red, that’s nice and colourful) according to packet instructions, add two cinnamon sticks to the pan before starting to cook. Remove the cinnamon once the quinoa is done (water fully absorbed, fluff it a bit with a fork) and put it in one or more bowls. Add cranberries, dried apricots, nuts (walnut, pecan), raisins, some maple syrup and some milk. There you go: breakfast of champions!

While we’re at it; I bought most of the ingredients for the breakfast dish at the Volkskruidentuin last weekend. Great store on the Kinkerstraat with the biggest collections of herbs, nuts, rice, dried fruits and grain products I know of in the whole of Amsterdam. No website, so a Yelp review will have to do.

Fresh granola and places to get ingredients

Beginning of 2012, we decided to change our eating habits a bit. We decided to minimize the amount of processed food and to use as many fresh ingredients as possible. That’s all very vague, I know. The rule of thumb we use is:

  • No more stuff that I can make at home myself
  • No more ingredients in our food that I don’t know (meaning no more E-numbers, no more added preservatives with names I don’t recognize)
  • At most one processed ingredient

We keep a list of exceptions that holds things such as cheese, stock cubes, milk, yoghurt, butter, maple syrup and others.

Since then we’ve also started making our own granola and that’s been a blast. It’s fresh, tastes a lot better than store-bought granola, gives you a great smell in the house once a week and you can fully customize the granola with any ingredient you like.

There are plenty of recipes out there so I will keep things short here. I typically use a combination of rolled oats (rye, oat, wheat, et cetera) as a basis and then add nuts (pecan, hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamia, almonds) and seeds (such as sunflower, pumpkin). Then I add melted butter, sesame oil or some other vegetable oil and a sweetener (maple syrup, honey, sugar) and a bit of cinnamon. Then I add it to the oven (150 to 180 Celcius) and toss it around every 10 minutes or so until it’s browned and crispy. Then, I let it cool and add, raisins, cranberries, dried apricots and other dried fruits.

I try to add as little fat (oil, butter) as possible. Some suggest to add a bit of water instead of oil. I yet have to try that.

Places in Amsterdam where I typically get my ingredients are the following:

  • Tabak’s Notebar on the Rijnstraat. Close to the A2 highway onramp. A bit out of town but definitely worth it. Here I get all my nuts, seeds and dried fruits
  • The market (every Saturday) on Nieuwmarkt has a stand with all kinds of all and one-litre Maple Syrup containers that aren’t too expensive