Janneke Vreugdenhil, who doesn’t know her. She is a food writer and writes on a daily basis for the NRC Handelsblad and NRC next, writes cookbooks, articles for magazines and blogs on her own site. She’s been around the culinary block for quite a while and I was curious to interview her. Gladly, she said yes. Happy reading all!

Profession: Food writer

Why so passionate about food?
I guess I’m just super voracious. That basically means that I am craving or consuming large quantities of food all the time. Haha

When and why did you start http://www.etenenzo.nl/?
That was around 2001 or 2002, when I just started writing about food. None of my colleagues had a website back then, but I thought I should have one.

Who learned you how to cook?
I learned to cook from my mom. She was and still is a wonderful and very adventurous cook. I still love cooking with her and we always swap recipes. She is very much into Yotam Ottolenghi at the moment. Every time I have dinner at my parent’s house she prepares one of his dishes. And they always taste great. It wouldn’t surprise me if we go and have Christmas dinner there, that the table will be full of Ottolenghis’ dishes.

Where do you get your inspiration from to cook?
From all sorts of things and situations. Markets, dinners with friends, cookbooks, restaurants, travelling, reading blogs, whatever I am craving, the contents of my fridge, anything can be the start of a new dish for me.

You are a culinary journalist for the NRC too, what do you like most about this job?
The greatest thing about this job is that the newspaper pays me to do what I love to do most. I still can’t believe it, but they actually do!

What is your most memorable article you wrote and why?
I guess that must be an extensive article that I wrote for Bouillon magazine about my culinary hero Richard Olney. Because I didn’t have much experience in writing back then, and because I loved the topic so much, I wanted to write a perfect article; it took me about a month to write it. But I enjoyed every minute of it.

I saw that you also made several cookbooks. Which one are you most proud of and why?
Cookbooks are like children, I love them all equally ;). No seriously, it’s hard for me to choose. But let’s say it’s my latest, “I ♥ love groente”. I absolutely love vegetable and because I did all the food styling myself and because my dad made lovely vegetable illustrations for it.

Most memorable moment in the kitchen (good or bad)?
There are so many memorable moments, both in my own kitchen and while travelling, in other people’s kitchens. But let me choose one: I remember a beautiful afternoon in Sicily when the nonna (grandmother) of a dear Sicilian friend taught me how to make pizza in her ancient wood oven. Never tasted a better one, before or after that day.

What is your fave cuisine?
Italian, Spanish, Chinese and Thai are among my favorites.

You probably own a lot of cookbooks, but what is your favorite and why?
Again, hard to choose. But among my favorites definitely Claudia Roden’s “The Book of Jewish Food”. Did you know it took her 18 years to write it? It is the most interesting cookbook I have ever read, and I’ve cooked it to pieces. About two years ago I got to know Claudia and she invited me to come visit her in her home in London. She cooked a delicious gazpachuelo for me, an Andalusian fish soup. Talking about most memorable moments in the kitchen, this certainly was one of them as well.

What is your fave Meal?
That depends on many things, state of mind, hour of the day, season, company, etc. But one of the meals that never fails to make me happy is Asian noodle soup. I cannot withstand the combination of hot and spicy broth and slippery noodles.

Do you have a guilty pleasure when it comes to food? tell us
No, I guess you might say it’s against my principles to feel guilty about food.

Do you have an ideal culinary destination and what would the trip look like?
I would love to travel through China and learn how to cook proper Chinese Food. They have the most interesting cooking techniques, some of which are totally unknown in our westerns cuisine. Preferably I would take lessons from ordinary Chinese people, I don’t mean from chefs or other professionals, but from the locals. I guess I would have to learn the language first then, wouldn’t I?

What 3 ingredients would we always find in your kitchen?
Olive oil, lemons, garlic. I could neither cook nor live without them.

What are your favorite hotspots?
It’s not exactly a hotspot the place I keep returning to is Kiraku, a little sushi restaurant not far from my house. I’m addicted to their house salad. Their sushi might not be the best in the whole world, but it is more than decent and I just love the unpretentiousness of the place.

Fave quote?
“As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists.” Joan Gussow. Not only does it reflect on how I feel about butter – butter rocks! – but it also expresses how I feel about food in general. Without wanting to be one of those people who believe everything you eat should be pure and real and organic and artisanal and what have you, I do think it is always advisable to be suspicious of what the food industry wants us to eat. I think in choosing food, we are best off using our instincts. And I dare say that, when doing so, it’s impossible to choose margarine over butter.

Dish you master + recipe so we can make it too 😉
From my latest book, “I love groente”.

Recipe for a Green Curry with edamame, aubergine and spinach
I eat a lot of curries. Because they are the perfect dish to put in a lot of vegetables, quick and easy to make and everyone in my family loves it. Nothing beats the smell of a fresh herbal paste, but even with the paste that comes out of a jar you can make a very fresh and fragrant curry. My trick: Use the stems of the coriander and puree them with the rest of the store bought paste. Lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and edamame are things you can easily buy at Asian shops nowadays. They store perfectly fine in the fridge too, so easy to stock up on them and have them at hand at all times. If you can’t find edamame beans, you can substitute them for broad beans or chick peas.

For 2 ppl

½ bunch coriander
2 TBsp Thai green curry paste
1 TBsp arachide oil
1 can of coconut milk
1 lemon grass, bruised and tied in a knot
5 kaffir lime leaves
1 eggplant, cut up in cubes
200 g frozen edamame
½ TBsp of sugar
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons
100 g cherry tomatoes
A handful of wild spinach, chopped up roughly.

Pluck the coriander leaves. Keep the leaves seperate from the stems.

Add the stems to the hand blender together with the green curry paste.
Blend and form a smooth paste.
Heat up a wok and add in the oil.
Add the curry paste and fry for about 2-3 minutes until you start smelling the fragrances.
Pour in coconut milk and bring to boil.
Add in lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and eggplant and let it simmer for about 1o minutes.
Add in the edamame and boil for a few minutes.
Taste and flavor your curry with sugar, salt and lime juice.
The flavors should all be balanced.
Stir in the cherry tomatoes and spinach for a final minute.
Scatter the coriander on top.

If you liked this interview, be sure to check out my other interviews too.