We've moved to our own domain! Come see us for new posts, food tidbits and great recipes at The Dutch Table.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We've moved!

The interest in Dutch cooking and baking is growing steadily! I started the Dutch Baking page as a way to keep track of my progress in mapping the cuisine of the Netherlands. It didn't last long until the Dutch Cooking page came along, and both have been existing happily on their own blog pages.

But there is still so much to talk about that, in order to keep everything under one roof, or perhaps better said, on one table, I've decided to gather all posts and comments on one single page: The Dutch Table. This is where future posts will be published.

So bookmark the new website, come visit and I look forward to seeing you there! Gezellig!

Nicole Holten

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Holland celebrates its yearly carnaval season this week. As a traditionally Catholic festivity, it is held in the southern provinces of the country, such as Limburg, Brabant, Gelderland and even Zeeland. The northern Protestant areas tend to do a lighter version, if at all, but still haven't quite gotten the hang of it yet.

The south sure makes up for it! Being the more lively half of the country, children and adults will dress up in costumes, parties are held at schools and work and the whole bottom half of the country is pretty much out of the running during these last carnaval days. For those party-poopers that wish to escape all lunacy, ski destinations are especially popular during this time of year. As you may remember, Holland has no mountains, so the Dutch flee en masse to hillier countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Austria. Ski away!!

Carnaval organizations from various cities in the south will select a theme and organize parades with huge floats with which they reflect on important local events, make fun of political happenings or represent their organization, guild or sports club, each in their own distinct dialect. Most places will also adopt a different name during these last five days before Lent: the city of Den Bosch is now known as Oeteldonk, Breda becomes Kielegat and my own Venlo is now called Jocus. The city of Sittard, now 't Marotte Riek, is well known for its deep-fried Carnaval donut called nonnevot

The word carnaval presumably originated from the Latin "carne vale", something akin to "farewell meat", as this period precedes Ash Wednesday, the first day of the forty days of Lent, a period of sobriety and penitence. Carnaval therefore is the last stop to indulge in all things human: food, drink, dance and God knows what else. The official Carnaval period starts on November 11 (the number attributed to fools), the eleven of the eleventh, and reaches its climax during the weekend before Ash Wednesday.

But as it is, to all good things come an end, and when Ash Wednesday, March 8th, comes around it's time to regroup, repent and retreat. After partying for five days straight, people go back (to their own) home, wash the makeup off their face, remove the confetti from their hair and put away their costumes. After so many indulgences, it is traditional to celebrate the end of carnaval, and the beginning of Lent with haringsalade, a pickled herring salad. Beets, potatoes, pickles, apple and herring make a creamy, slightly tangy dish that is refreshing, nourishing and makes up for the lack of meat. Eaten preferably with buttered cold toast, it's a good way to put up your feet, relax and mentally prepare for next year's Carnaval. After all, November 11th is only nine months away......

1 small jar of herring in sour cream, 12oz
2 beets, boiled and peeled
1 large potato, boiled and peeled
1 large apple, crisp
6 tiny dill pickles
1 tablespoon of capers
1 small shallot or onion
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Four slices of white bread

Dice the beets and potato. Peel and core the apple, then dice these as well. Chop the shallot or the onion, do the same with the dill pickles. Fish (no pun intended) the herring pieces from the sour cream dressing and cut them in half. Add two tablespoons of mayo to the remaining sour cream dressing in the jar, mix and toss carefully with the rest of the ingredients into a creamy salad until the beets have colored everything a purplish red. Add additional sour cream or mayo if the salad needs it.

Toast the bread, let it cool and butter on one side. Cut in two or three pieces and serve with the salad.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gehaktballen met jus

Woensdag Gehaktdag! "Wednesday is ground meat day". It used to be the marketing slogan for the butchering trade during the fifties and sixties, and even now, on many a Wednesday you can find children standing on a little stool at the kitchen counter, helping make dinner by learning how to roll meatballs in their little grubby hands, and sneaking small bites of the seasoned raw meat when the adult is not looking.

Why Wednesday? Presumably because the butcher would butcher harvest on Monday, cut on Tuesday and process all the leftovers into ground meat on Wednesday. Whether that's entirely true or not, I don't know, but it sounds plausible.

Broodje Bal
Dutch meatballs are a couple of sizes up from the average American spaghetti meatballs. Slowly simmered in their own jus, these carneous clods are versatile, easy to make and affordable, and one of those typical dishes that are somehow associated with "gezelligheid", grandmas and wintery dishes. Gehaktballen can be served in many ways: as your main protein with one of the various stamppots, by itself on a piece of bread, broodje bal, with a good lick of mustard or ketchup, or sliced and deep-fried with onion and served with peanut sauce, the famous bereklauw... The gehaktbal will endure practically any kind of culinary treatment: it's all good.

Preferably made with half-om-half gehakt, fifty percent beef and fifty percent pork, these meatballs will also do fine with an 85/15 (eightyfive percent meat, fifteen percent fat) ground beef. Too lean a meat will not do much for their flavor, you need some fat for the simmering and the jus. Since quite a bit of water is added at the simmering stage, the meat itself will have lost some of its calories, in case you were minding your diet.

Gehaktballen met jus
1 lb of ground beef, preferably 85/15 or half beef, half pork
2 slices of white bread
1/2 cup of milk
2 shallots or one small onion
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, ground
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, ground
2 tablespoons of mustard

2 tablespoons of flour
4 tablespoons of butter

Mince the shallots or small onion. Add the meat to a bowl, mix in the shallots, the egg, the mustard, nutmeg, the salt and pepper and knead a couple of times. Cut the crust off the bread, soak it in the milk and add it to the meat. Dispose of the rest of the milk.

When the mixture has come together, divide it in four equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, roll the meatballs throught the flour and set aside.

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven and sear the meatballs on all sides until brown. Lower the heat, place the cover on the pan and let them simmer for a good twenty minutes, then turn them over in the grease and simmer for another ten. Add 1/2 cup of water to the pan, cover and simmer for another twenty minutes. Remove the meatballs from the pan, add 1/2 cup of beef stock to the pan and stir to loosen up all the meaty bits from the bottom of the pan. Taste and see if you need to adjust salt/pepper or bind the jus a little bit with cornstarch or flour, you decide.

Meatballs made one day ahead somehow always taste better the next day. Serve one meatball per person, and add a generous spoonful of jus on their potatoes for some good old-fashioned prakking.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On the practice of prakken....

Table manners are an important reflection of upbringing and common courtesy. Both hands above the table, no leaning on your elbows, no talking and chewing at the same time, no stuffing your mouth full or taking a sip while you still have food in your mouth....for those of us that were raised in Holland, these rules for board behavior sound probably very familiar.

Not all eating etiquette, however, transposes well into other cultures. Whereas in America most foods are served to be consumed with only a fork, the Dutch use both a fork and a knife to eat: the fork firmly lodged in the left hand, the knife in the right. The fork (vork) is used to spear the food and bring it to the mouth, the knife (mes) cuts a piece of meat, vegetable or potato as needed. Open-faced sandwiches are cut into neat little squares, fruit is skillfully severed into edible pieces. It's all very polite and educated and, the Dutch, we innerly scoff a little bit at those people that still eat sandwiches with their hands, peel oranges with their fingers and scoop up rice with a fork.

Mash those potatoes well
But do not be deceived by such haute haughtiness. Because behind closed doors, when we are alone, we subject the food on our plate to a practice so abhorrent, so abominable that even the most barbarous barbaric would drop its jaw in disgust. This is the practice of prakken. If you are familiar with Dutch cuisine, or have read the articles on this blog, you know that it suggested to always have "jus", pan gravy, with the meat when you serve potatoes. Why? Because this fatty fluid is the key to prakken.

Now what the heck is prakken? Prakken is having a beautiful plate of steaming, perfect globes of crumbly boiled potatoes, over which you drizzle hot, greasy pan juice and then brutally attack with a fork, mashing the potatoes, sometimes even mixing in the vegetables, and reducing it to a soft pulpy state. Why do we do this? I have no clue. But it tastes good.

Add enough pan gravy

As young children, when we just start to eat solids, our food is often prakked for us, sometimes with sweet applesauce mixed in to mask the taste of liver, Brussels sprouts or whatever else we tend to dislike at that age, and to make it more palatable. Perhaps that's why we still prak, I don't know. But mashing your boiled potatoes, mixing it with the gravy of the meat and having the slightly sweet, savory flavor of those mashed potatoes is a whole new experience. A more grown-up, and socially acceptable prakked food would be a stamppot, of which we have many varieties. But the home-made, plate-local prak is praktically, no pun intended, illegal, forbidden and most certainly "not done". And that is what makes it so sweet........

So prak away. At home, that is. Just not when you've been invited to dinner at some new friend's home. Or if a potential new employer invites you to a lunch interview. I know you'll be tempted when you see the gravy from the meat dripping onto the plate and slowly making its way towards the potatoes, but prakken is just not done. At least not in public!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Stokvis, or stick fish, not to be confused with fish stick, is a dried piece of cod. Fresh cod is caught, cleaned and stuck on a stick and left to dry in the cold Northern wind. Several months later, you have a dried up, leathery, rock-hard piece of fish. The main reason to dry fish is, ofcourse, to preserve it, often up to a year. In order to make the fish palatable again, it needs to be soaked for at least 24 hours in water to soften the tissue, refreshing the water every six to 8 hours. 

Who in the world would want to eat that? I'm glad you asked. Stokvis is quite popular in a variety of cultures: northern countries such as Norway and Sweden, southern regions like Portugal and Spain, and ofcourse Holland, or the Netherlands are all countries that regularly integrate the delicate flavor of this dried-up finny food into their daily meals.

Stokvis is hard to find in the United States but the salted bacalao, known in Dutch as klipvis, available in the seafood department of larger grocery stores, will do just fine for this purpose: the only difference between one and the other is that bacalao has been salted extensively and the skin, tail and bones have been already removed. Soaking and refreshing the water becomes even more important in this case. 

Up until the Second World War, stokvis was very popular in Holland. It was very affordable and the high amount of protein provided a very nutritious meal. The lengthy prepare time and the characteristic smell made it eventually an unpopular dish. Nowadays, it is one of the more expensive foods to consume, but it has never reached its pre-war popularity.

Stokvis is traditionally served on New Year's Day in various provinces, like Friesland and Zeeland. Steamed white rice, boiled potatoes, fried onions, a lick of mustard and warm creamy buttersauce are side dishes to the fish. It doesn't sound like much, and the color combination is terrible (white, yellow, brown, yellow and beige....not appetizing!) but once you mix the buttersauce in with the rice, mashing the potatoes and mixing in the onions, it all of a sudden becomes a very honest, almost heartwarming meal and most certainly worth the effort.

1 case of cod
Plenty of water
1 cup of white rice
4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 stick of butter
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
White pepper to taste

Soak the cod in cold water for 24 hours, refreshing the water every eight hours or according to instructions on the box. The fish doesn't take long to cook once it's soaked so time it accordingly. Both rice and potatoes usually take about twenty minutes, that's enough for the fish to be ready.

Boil rice per instructions (usually one cup of rice on two cups of water, bring to a boil, cover, simmer for twenty minutes) as well as the potatoes (add enough water to a pan to cover, add a teaspoon of salt, bring to a boil, cover and medium boil for twenty minutes or until done).

Fry the onion slices in one tablespoon of butter until golden. Set aside. Melt the rest of the butter in the pan but do not brown. When it's warm, add half a cup of water, bring back up to temperature. Add the cornstarch to a little bit of water, mix and stir into the warm sauce. Stir until it thickens and makes a nice creamy sauce.

When all is done, place a  piece of fish on a plate and surround it with rice and potatoes. Pour the warm buttersauce over the rice and potatoes, add some fried onions on top and sprinkle some white pepper to taste. Add some mustard if you wish and enjoy your meal!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


In several days time, on January 29th, Holland will be the scene for another highly culinary event: the annual Frikandellen Eating competition. Held for the seventh year and hosted by the Men's Choir of Heukelum, a small town in the province of Gelderland, twenty contestants will compete for the challenge trophy and, oh joy, the Golden Frikandel.

Gelderland is no stranger to interesting sausages: it is supposedly the birthplace of Gelderse kookworst and rookworst. In Dutch, worst means sausage which may, on the whole, not be totally coincidental, as the meat used for many of these sausages is not exactly the best. The Gelderse version is made of lean pork, seasoned with a particular set of spices and slightly smoked over oak and beech, then eaten either cold (kookworst) as luncheon meat or boiled (rookworst) with split pea soup or boerenkool, that lovely wintery dish of mashed potatoes with kale.

Frankwin's "broodje frikandel"
So what is a frikandel? It's a skinless deep-fried sausage, made of chicken, pork and beef. It can be served by itself or with mayo, in a roll (broodje frikandel) or cut open and doused in mayo, (curry) ketchup and minced onion. This culinary concoction is called a "frikandel speciaal". This savory sausage is Holland's number one snack, only every so often bumped off its champion position by number two, the kroket, the big brother of the bitterballen. Fried snacks such as these are traditionally sold in neighborhood "snack bars" or "automatieken", like the Febo.

Kroketten, bitterballen and frikandellen are also the top three fried snacks most missed by Dutch expatriates. The first two are fairly easy to make, but I had never tried my hand at making frikandellen until this weekend. It's a bit of a hassle but you'll be surprised at how close to the real thing this recipe is. So get your mayo, ketchup and onions ready, because it's time for a frikandel!

1 pound of beef
1 pound of pork
8 oz of chicken
3 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of black peper
1 teaspoon of ground allspice
1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
3 teaspoons of onion powder
3/4 cup of whipping cream

Grind the meat very, very fine and blend together with the spices and the cream. Watch out for the motor if you do this on your food processor, and do small batches to prevent overheating the appliance.

Many thanks to Frankwin for
the recipe and all the help!
Bring a large pan with water to a boil. If you have a sausage grinder or stuffer, just hang the end of the tube over the pan of boiling water. If you don't, you can make this contraption to push the meaty mush into a sausage shape: take a 16oz soda bottle, preferably with straight edges, and cut off the bottom. Find a glass or something solid that fits snug inside the bottle so that you can push the ground meat through the opening. You are going to need a lot of strength to do this! Please make sure the pan with boiling water cannot be bumped off the stove and keep kids, pets and impatient eaters out of the kitchen. Safety first!

Now fill the bottle with the meat, tap it tight so that there are no air pockets and hold the bottle over the water. Push the meat through the opening and have someone else cut the string of meat every ten inches or so. The meat will shrink at least a third in the water, so the longer the better. Frikandellen measure on average a good seven inches long.

Allow the meat to boil for five to six minutes, on a medium boil, then retrieve the sausages and dry them on a cooling rack.

Once they've cooled, you can freeze them for future use, or you can crank up the deep-fryer. Straight from the cooling rack, they need about 3 to four minutes in the hot oil (fry at 375F). For frikandellen speciaal you can cut them lengthwise, about 2/3s in, before you fry them.

Serve with mayo, with a bun or "speciaal". If you start training now, you might still be in time to participate in the National Frikandellen Eating competition this year. Good luck!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gebakken Peren

"To be left with baked pears" is a typical Dutch saying which indicates you are in trouble, or that you're left holding the proverbial bag. Presumably the expression comes from the Middle Ages, where women sold stewed or baked pears on the street. If they had not sold all their merchandise by the end of the day, they were left "stuck with baked pears".

Whether that's true or not, I am unsure but it's a cute story and I'll go with it. Holland has many sayings that involve food somehow: cheese (laat zich het kaas niet van het brood eten), vegetables (een kool stoven), fruit (met de gebakken peren zitten), or meat (wat voor vlees je in de kuip hebt), beans (boontje komt om zijn loontje), butter (boter op zijn hoofd hebben) and ofcourse bread (de een zijn dood is de ander zijn brood).

I found a recipe for baked pears in an old Albert Heijn cookbook but found the execution a little on the boring side. I tend to follow recipes to a T, especially because I want to make sure I reflect the original flavors, but in this case I allowed myself a little culinary freedom. Baked pears are traditional in the verbal fashion, but are not a typical dish or one with much history. However, for a change, one can be glad to be left "stuck with baked pears"!

Gebakken Peren
3 large pears, firm (I used Bartletts)
3 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of sugar, divided
1 cup of water
1 tablespoon of panko or unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon of vanilla flavoring
 2 tablespoons of chopped hazelnuts

Wash and cut the pears in half, don't remove the stem nor peel the fruit. Melt the butter in a skillet and place the pears cut side down. Fry at a low temperature until the pears are golden on the cut side, about ten minutes. Place the pears, this time cut side up, in an oven dish, sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar and panko and bake for twenty minutes at 350F.

In the meantime, let the butter in the skillet cool a little bit, then add the rest of the sugar while stirring and carefully add the vanilla and the water. Be careful that the sugar has absorbed the butter before you add the water, otherwise it will cause lots of splattering and may cause burns! Stir over heat until the sauce thickens and caramelizes, add the hazelnuts and take off the stove.

Place the pears under the broiler so that the breadcrumbs can brown. Take one pear, place it on a plate and spoon the hazelnut caramel sauce over it.

I served the pears with hangop: 16 oz of plain yogurt is left to drain in a moist cheesecloth in a colander over a bowl for 24 hours. Stir the remaining creamy yogurt with a tablespoon of powdered sugar, just enough to take the sour edge off the dairy, and whip for several beats to incorporate some air into the yogurt. This is called "hangop" or "hangup" in Dutch and is an old-fashioned dessert.