When my parents came to visit me for the first time after I moved to England, I asked them to bring me a present, a Dutch Gourmet Set. Gourmetten (verb) is a tradition in Holland and everyone does it. I wanted to get myself a gourmet set in England but I could not find them anywhere. When I invited friends around to our house for an evening of Gourmetten, all of them told me they thought it was the most fabulous thing to do with friends and asked me where they could buy a Gourmet Set. I never knew the answer.
But what is it, I hear you ask. Well, it is kind of like Raclette (which is not the word we would use in Dutch, hence for years I thoguht I could not buy the Gourmet Set in England, only to find out I needed to look for a Raclette Set which is available at John Lewis!)
We all know the Swiss thing that is Raclette: melted cheese and bits of meat & bread to dip in to the melted cheese.
In Holland, we have given it a twist that has become THE most popular thing to do with friends and family around. The Dutch way is to use the top grill plate to grill meat & fish. The little pans at the bottom, traditionally used to melt the cheese that you then pour over the meat or fish, are used for side dishes. Like what, I hear you ask. Well, think of chopped onions, mushrooms, bacon lardons, eggs, spring onions, mini-potatoes etc. Everyone basically makes their own food in their own little pan and they can do whatever they want and make yummie or yukkie combinations.
Add a nice salad, some sauces, wine & bread and you basically make your own dinner. Great fun. In Holland, they make preparing all this even easier because at the supermarket or butcher, you simply buy a ready-made Gourmet Dish: a tray of meat such as chicken, hamburgers, steak, pork fillet etc, cut up in bite-sized pieces.
Recently, my folks visited again and since my Gourmet Set was broken, I asked them to bring me a new one. Clearly my mother thought you coudl not buy meat in England so she not only brought us a Gourmet Set, she also brought us a frozen Gourmet Tray (wrapped in tin foil to keep it cold on the plane). Bless her.
So next time you come to dinner at our house, you know what you'll get: Gourmetten. Pretty soon, one of my friends is getting married. Now that I know you call it Raclette in England, I can simply buy them a Raclette set as a present. Yay.
Strange though how you can buy the thing in England and yet none of my friends had ever heard of it and a few had asked me to get my parents to bring them one from Holland. Maybe I can start a trade in pre-cut Gourmet Dishes.
A Candle of Hope
2 weeks ago