‘It involves a lot of chopping’
Curry madras à la Villa Kremlin
Original recipe from uitpaulineskeuken.nl, for four people rather than seventeen
300 grams of chicken breast
1 red bell pepper200 grams of green beans
2 cloves of garlic
1 cm of ginger
Half a red pepper
1 crisp apple (such as Braeburn)
150 grams of creme fraiche (or Greek yoghurt)
200 grams of diced tomatoes
1 tbsp of curry madras spices
Cut the chicken breast into small pieces and put in a bowl. In the bowl, add a bit of olive oil, chopped garlic, ginger, red pepper (deseeded) and the madras spices. Add the salt and mix. Let the chicken sit for approximately half an hour.
Peel and chop the onion and fry in olive oil. Add the chicken until lightly browned. Dice bell pepper and add to the pan.
Add the diced tomatoes and creme fraiche and stir until your sauce is smooth. Add the green beans and simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. Cut up the apple and add to the sauce at the end.
Garnish with coriander and extra red pepper to taste. Serve with rice or naan.
‘I’ve been at it for an hour and a half’, says Thijs. He’s walking around the spacious kitchen, minding the five pots on the stove. A speaker loudly plays house music. The shelves along the walls are filled with food products and kitchen tools. Today’s assistant is Delano, ‘because Kiki abandoned her post’. ‘Cooking for seventeen people involves a lot of chopping’, Delano sighs.
For these communal dinners, the students have to come up with dishes they can easily make in large quantities, such as hamburgers, noodles, or, like tonight, curry madras. But never pasta. Opinions are divided on the reason behind this decision. ‘I simply thought they never had it, but apparently it’s because of me’, says Eline with a shrug. It turns out that she’s the only person in the house who doesn’t like pasta.
Villa Kremlin is home to no fewer than seventeen students. They all belong to various athletic and social clubs, such as Aegir, GCC, and Albertus. The house, located next to the Saint Franciscus church in the Oosterparkwijk, used to be a presbytery. One of the first things you see when you walk in is the bar located in the entrance hall. The name of the house is painted on the wall behind it. The windows are the original stained glass, bathing the walls in different colours.
The walls are used to, among other things, keep track of the house’s beer-drinking challenge, which involves residents drinking six beers as quickly as they can without throwing up. The walls of the common room are adorned with photos of all the former residents, as well as a whiteboard with the names of the current residents followed by tally marks. These represent the number of shots of jenever each resident has to drink that night because they didn’t clean up their trash or failed to do a chore in the house.
Every three months, house elder Marleen writes an impressive schedule for all the chores that need doing in the house. One of the more peculiar ones? Being the ‘Nazi’. The group of roommates tasked with this chore have to make their rounds through the house during the weekly get-together to make sure all the other chores are finished.
There are many more rules, but they’re all necessary to make life bearable in a house with seventeen residents, says Lucas. Some rules involve drinking: roommates have to down a beer when they say something wrong or fail to pay attention, and they always have to drink with their non-dominant hand. Another rule involves yelling ‘seat check!’ to make sure no one steals your seat. Thijs thinks the rule is a childish one, but it’s necessary. ‘There are so many of us and there’s only a limited number of seats in the common room’, Delano explains.
Because the house was founded in 2014, every resident can take a free beer from the cooler every day at 8.14 p.m., as long as they finish the beer within that same minute. If you don’t know any of the rules, you have to do a ‘Gijsadt’, named after former housemate Gijs, who would always forget the rules.
‘It’ll never fit!’ Thijs yells in despair from in front of the stove as Delano hands him the green beans. They add a sixth pot to the stove.
Living in a house with seventeen people seems like a lot, but it’s perfectly manageable, says Lucas. ‘Everyone has their own room, it’s not like we’re always on each other’s lips.’ Delano also enjoys it, because there’s always someone home who’s up for a good time. And while everyone is busy throughout the working week, everyone in the house is close and they hang out a lot together, organising a prosecco breakfast or Easter brunch in the garden, among other things.
Another drinking rule: if dinner isn’t ready by seven o’clock, the cook has to down a whole bottle of beer every fifteen minutes they’re late. But Thijs is perfectly on time tonight. He shouts through the window: ‘Yo people! Soup’s on in a minute!’ That is, as long as the table in the common room is set. ‘Ilse, can you come help out?’ Thijs asks. Ilse protests that she only just got back from her workout, but none of the other housemates are doing anything. In order to have enough seats, Ilse, Delano, and Thijs get chairs from all over the place and put them at the long dinner table.
The rest of the housemates slowly trickle into the common room, creating a boisterous atmosphere. At the table, they compliment Thijs on the food. The group discusses upcoming exams and the important matter of whether to go out tonight.
Once their plates are cleared, it’s time for some seriousness: the weekly house meeting, in which all seventeen residents make announcements and proclaim what irritated them this week. It’s also the time when the tally marks on the whiteboard get counted and people have to do the requisite number of shots of jenever. Things get pretty rough sometimes, says Delano, but according to him ‘everyone here can handle it’.
To be fair, things appear fairly civilised at Villa Kremlin. Then, Eline asks the question that is apparently on everyone’s mind, even after the shots of jenever: ‘Who wants a drink?’