Chestnut delight

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #50

Around here the days are undeniably getting shorter and hibernation season is around the corner. Luckily there are a few autumnal foods to cheer up the dark evenings, like pumpkin (prepared in many different forms – pasta, risotto, soup, pizza…) and a recent discovery that totally hit the spot: chestnuts.

They’re really easy to prepare. We just soak them in water for a couple of hours, dry them with a cloth and cut a slit lengthwise in the round side of the shell. They can then be popped in the pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes at 240°C. We regularly sneak a peek in the oven to check when they are ready (the shell opens up a little more, showing off the lovely flesh). Then we take them out of the oven, wrap them in a clean cloth for 10mn while they cool. Done!

Then the cloth can be unwrapped to reveal its warm treasures.  It’s such a simple pleasure to chat while we carefully pull the chestnuts from their shell and chew on the sweet, floury texture. Delicious!! I could make this a daily ritual:)

Hidden treat

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #49

I am grateful for the wonderful surprise that Paolo prepared one night this week while I was sound asleep.

I woke up as usual in the morning and while preparing breakfast I vaguely noticed strange details in the kitchen, like the fact that there were lots more dishes drying that I had washed the night before. But I just continued with my morning routine, until I was tipped off by the remains of a lime in the fridge, which had been grated for its zest… That triggered me and I started to look (excitedly!) around the kitchen. Sure enough I found a beautiful apple and pear cake hidden in the oven!

Paolo is a master at this recipe, the cake was absolutely delicious, full of fruit and slightly caramelised. The perfect way to start the day:) Merci!!!

Modern day barter

barter : (verb) To trade goods or services without the exchange of money

I remember first learning about barter trade in my social anthropology classes at university. When I think of the word barter, vivid images appear in my head of men in the Pacific Ocean taking flimsy-looking canoes to go on expeditions for months at a time, where they would trade beautiful seashells with tribes from other islands.

I recall that the rubbing and handling of the shells would give the outside of the shell a dark patina, increasing the shell’s value the more they were held and exchanged. I loved the idea of trading without money and the notion that the same object was increasingly getting more valuable as it was swapped from hand to hand.

As it turns out, barter trade doesn’t have to be such a far away concept. Yesterday, Eline came over to purchase some of my worms to start her own compost, after contacting me on Marktplaats (the Dutch eBay).

As we were talking, Eline explained that she is just back from Belgium where she learned to bake artisanal bread and she asked if it would be ok to pay half the price in cash and swap the other half for a loaf of bread.

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I have to admit I was a little taken aback and I hesitated on accepting because I wasn’t expecting it at all. She explained that her bread is made with local stone-ground flour and French sea salt. But it was when Eline took the bread out of its paper bag to show me, that I was sold (I was bartered?!). As you can see on the pictures, the loaf was beautifully round and full, and had the most mouth-watering rich bready smell.

I’m so glad I accepted her offer, as we’ve been enjoying thick slices of this delicious sourdough bread with butter and jam all weekend.

Eline explained that she only bakes bread once a week at the moment because she is still looking for a place to set up her activity in Amsterdam. I hope she does so soon, so I can pick up some of this tasty bread regularly. I think I could get used to it:)

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Update:
Eline’s delicious artisanal bread is now sold on Saturdays at Vinnie’s Deli (Haarlemmerstraat 46 HS, 1013 ES Amsterdam), or you can pick it up directly from her home near Westerpark (contact her at elineex@gmail.com for more details).