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.
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.
My very first blog post included a photograph from this shop, 10 years ago.
In the intervening 10 years the shop has got scruffier. I heard from a taxi driver born in the neighbourhood that it used to be owned by the current occupant’s father who had a great interest in glasses. He ran the shop, and a more lucrative business renting glasses to various photo shoots, films and tv productions. After he died his son inherited, but although he runs the business he seems to have little interest in it.
I’ve published more than 600 posts and my top viewed post is about the day I was surprised to find a Russian submarine in Amsterdam harbour. Most people find my blog via search engines, and the best referring site is I Am Expat. For 2015 most visitors have been from the Netherlands, followed by USA, UK, Germany and Canada.
To all of you dank je wel, thank you, thank you, danke schön, and thank you.