Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out the Festival des Métiers at the Amsterdam Manege. It’s a display of the craftsmanship that goes into Hermès products, by the artisans themselves. You’ll see how a saddle is stitched, the fine porcelain painting, see what goes into printing a scarf, and the minute hand-stitching used create the famous rolled edges. At each station there is an interpreter translating the explanations in French for Dutch audiences. Even if you don’t speak either of these languages you can still watch and be amazed at the skill, and I’m sure if you had a real question in English the interpreter could help.
I’ll never be able to afford one of their products, but I still felt privileged to see inside the factory as it were, I was in awe of the skill.
It’s open until Monday, and you can see more info online, or on facebook.
Entering the festival
Porcelain paint test plates – beautiful in themselves
Gloves in progress
processed leather samples for the famous Kelly bags
Printing a scarf while you wait, he’s printing two “carres” at once.
Hand stitching the rolled hem on a scarf, it usually takes 45 minutes per scarf (but not with our interruptions)
Watch straps waiting
I was on a train at Amsterdam Centraal, heading east to Bijlmer. There had been some train delays and we were waiting to depart, there were a lot of “runners”, desperate to catch the train after the conductor had already blown his whistle.
Does this train stop in Utrecht?
Yes, come aboard.
Does this train go to Eindhoven?
Yes, jump on.
Yes, yes, move down the carriage please.
(He then closed the doors and the train began to move).
Welcome aboard the 11.40 train to Zandvoort!
*For those not up on Dutch geography, Zandvoort is in the opposite direction.
The Marilyn edition, spotted in the weekend on Nieuwezijdskolk.
I went off to enjoy another Dutch tradition yesterday afternoon with a friend and her young son. De kerstboomverbranding, literally the Christmas tree burning, is the annual immolation of Christmas trees. In Amsterdam it’s held on Museumplein on the first Sunday of the new year and people bring their un-ornamented trees to the square, often by bike, and the fire brigade sets fire to them.
There’s something deeply fascinating about flames so there were hundreds of people waiting to watch the bonfire. There’s also something really dangerous about fires and soon the flying embers were falling all around us, smoldering on winter coats and resting on the “to burn” pile of trees. We retreated, but you could see the fire from right across the square.
It’s a Dutch tradition I’ve known about for years, but where did it come from?
Once upon a time… OK in the 1950s burning the Christmas trees was much more of a free for all, this 1951 shows the burning of trees happening on New Year’s Eve and being done across Amsterdam in the streets (commentary in Dutch, but you’ll get the idea from the images). Various parts of Amsterdam started to centralise tree burnings to reduce the risk of injury and fires.
The concept got a further boost in the 1960s, with a campaign in Haarlem where children could bring in the trees in exchange for a ticket to the movies for use during the school holidays. The trees were then burnt publicly under the supervision of the police and the firebrigade on New Year’s Eve.
It was fun to see, but I’m sticking with my tiny fake, re-usable tree.
Maybe it’s the autumn weather, but this week I got inspired by the flavoured sausages on sale at the market. I bought the dried tomato version, it’s delicious sliced thinly or paired with pecorino. I also used some to flavour a lentil soup.
Take your sausage
chop vegetables, cook in vegetable stock, add lentils, cook futher 20 mins
serve with greek yoghurt and finely chopped parsley
A home paint job gives this bike some snazzy stripes. You can see the advantage of pimping your bike when see the “usual” black bikes surrounding this one.
A rather nice thing happened at the market on Saturday, I purchased my vegetables as usual, and as I paid I was offered some baby asparagus. They were past their best, or as the stall keeper tactfully put it “you need to use them soon”. I did, I made this soup yesterday which contains no lilypads but plenty of asparagus. When I saw the colour match with the table cloth I couldn’t resist the name.
I based the recipe on one I found on the BBC food site. It worked out well, it’s full of flavour without tasting too strongly of asparagus.
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 leek, cleaned and chopped
- 200g asparagus roughly chopped
- 1 medium sized potato, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4-5 sprigs of oregano, leaves only
- 250 ml vegetable stock
- 150 ml double cream
- good olive oil to drizzle
- crusty bread to serve
- Heat the oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat, add the leek, asparagus, potato, and oregano saute for about 4 minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock, add more water if the vegetables aren’t covered.
- Bring to the boil then reduce heat to simmer until all vegetables are cooked.
- Take off the heat, blend with a wand blender until smooth. Add cream and blend again
- Return to heat, add salt and pepper to taste.
- To serve pour into bowls, drizzle some good olive oil on the top and serve crusty bread on the side.
If you don’t want to serve it straight away, or want to store some of the soup, I would reserve the cream until you re-heat the soup just before serving. I didn’t test it but the soup mixture without cream should freeze fairly well.
If a vegan version is needed skip the butter but double the cooking oil, and add an extra potato and a little more stock or water. The potato does give the soup a creamy texture.