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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Koolsoep (Savoy Cabbage Soup)

Tired of cooking large meals? Can´t fathom having to do another pig-out on New Year´s Eve? No worries! This quick, savory, easy cabbage soup will allow you to put your feet up for a bit, have a hearty bite to eat and save some space for all that lovely food that will be coming your way until the end of the year.

Green cabbage, or savooiekool (savoy cabbage) is the Dutch green cabbage of choice. Its flavor is pleasantly cabbag-ey, but not overly heavy, and the leaves maintain a pleasant crunch after a quick boil. This brassica pairs nicely with pork and bacon and does best in a broth or a stamppot.

Save some French bread or a thicker loaf to toast and add to this soup. Select a nice, flavorful cheese to melt on the toasted bread. With this addition, the soup can be served as a meal.

Koolsoep
1 small savoy cabbage, washed and cut in narrow strips
1 cup of diced salty pork (or 4 strips of bacon, in strips)
1 medium onion, sliced
6 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon of caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
Splash of white wine (optional)
4 slices of bread
1 cup of grated cheese

Fry the salty pork or bacon crispy in a Dutch oven. Add the onion slices and stir until they are golden, about five minutes. Add the cabbage and stir until it´s slightly wilted, then add the broth and the spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer for a good twenty minutes. Add the splash of white wine if you want. Taste and adjust salt.

Put the cheese on the slices of bread and quickly melt the cheese under a broiler. Place a piece of bread in a deep plate or soup mug, pour the soup over it and enjoy!




Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Foeksandijvie (Escarole Endive Mashed Potatoes)

Nothing says "Dutch" like a good old-fashioned stamppot, a pan full of mashed potatoes and a vegetable. Most stamppotten consist only of potatoes and veg, and no butter or milk. The potatoes are usually creamy enough to make up for the lack of dairy, and the vegetables release enough juices to make the dish moist but not rich. A perfect dish therefore if you want to watch your weight, eat healthy and still feel like you have a dish full of comfort food!

"Foeksandijvie" is a stamppot made with escarole endive, a vegetable easy to grow and readily accessible at your local grocery store. The lettuce-type greens are washed and cut into strips, and mixed ("foeksen" in the dialect of the province of Overijssel where this dish is traditionally from) in with the potatoes after they have been mashed. The combination of warm, gooey potatoes with the crispy, slightly tart vegetables is a winner and will be a new favorite at your family's table.

The dish can be served with or without the added " karnemelksaus", a gravy made with buttermilk and salt pork.


Foeksandievie met karnemelksaus
6 large potatoes
1 head of escarole endive
1 teaspoon salt

Peel the potatoes and cut into regular sized chunks. Bring to a boil in a pan of water, barely covering the potatoes, add the salt and lower the heat to medium and boil for about twenty minutes. When the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, pour off the remainder of the water saving about half a cup. Mash and add some potato water if the mashed potatoes are too dry.

Wash the escarole, rinse and cut into half inch strips. Mix in with the mashed potatoes. Taste and adjust salt, and add a pinch of pepper or nutmeg if desired.


For the sauce

3 slices of salt pork, diced
1 cup of buttermilk
1/2 tablespoon of flour

Slowly render the fat out of the pork. Remove the meat, stir the flour into the fat and add the buttermilk. Stir until the sauce thickens, then add the pork back in. Serve separately, or pour it over the foeksandijvie on a family-style plate.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stoofpeertjes (Stewed Pears)

Stoofpeertjes, or stewed pears,  are one of those dishes that show up on the table when game such as rabbit, hare or pheasant is being served, or the richer meat dishes such as hazenpeper. Stoofpeertjes can also be served with "draadjesvlees", braised beef, in combination with boiled potatoes, and will take the place of a vegetable.

The first time I ate stewed pears was at a friend's house, I must have been six or seven years old. They served ratatouille and as dessert, stoofpeertjes. Ratatouille sounds much like "rat-something" and the chunks of eggplant were HUGE, something I was not necessarily fond of, but I was raised right so ate without complaining. I felt so rewarded for my good behavior when we had stoofpeertjes for dessert....Once I bit into one of these soft, tender, sweet pears, all eggplant misery was forgotten and I was in food-heaven.

Stoofpeertjes can be served as a side-dish to a beef entrée, or as dessert with some yogurt or hangop. It is easy to make and, if you have any leftover cranberry sauce and a bottom of red wine from Thanksgiving, I'd be sure to give it a try. These pears will be a beautiful addition to your Christmas dinner table.

The stoofpeertjes are pears that improve from stewing and turn red, like the Gieser Wildeman. As they are not available to us here in the US, I've chosen some sturdy Bartletts to do the job.

Stoofpeertjes
4 pears, peeled but with stem
1/2 jar of cranberry sauce/berry jam/fruity red wine
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 lemon peel, no pith
1 cup of apple juice* optional
1/3 cup of sugar

Warm the cranberry sauce, berry jam or fruity red wine in a sauce pan. Add the apple juice if the sauce or jam needs to be thinned. Stir in the sugar, add the cinnamon stick and place the pears in the warm liquid. Bring to a boil, then turn to a slow simmer and cover.

Simmer for about forty minutes, turning the pears over occassionally, but don't simmer them past their point as you want the fruit to remain whole. Remove the pears carefully as the fruit will be soft, then reduce the sauce or thicken with some cornstarch. Pour the sauce over the pears. This dish can be served warm or cold.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Roti (Curried chicken with beans and potatoes)

When we talk about Dutch food it would be difficult, and careless, to ignore the colonial influences. Some cuisines, such as the Indonesian one, have had time to slowly integrate into the daily culinary grind, to the point where traditional Dutch families will serve Indonesian dishes (albeit it heavily adjusted to the local palate) regularly at the dinner table and not consider it extravagant or daring. Cuisines from other colonies, such as Suriname and part of the Netherlands Antilles, are not yet as integrated into the six o'clock dinner routine, but can be readily obtained at the many tropical eateries around town and are quickly becoming a favorite. Today's dish is a colonial culinary treasure from Suriname.

The country of Suriname is located on the northern coast of South America. A former colony of the Netherlands, it obtained its independency in 1975. Leading up to its independence, many Surinamese emigrated to Holland instead, thereby introducing a new culinary development. The Surinamese cuisine is an exciting mix of European, Indonesian, Indian and South American influences.

The Dutch brought over workers to plant and harvest the plantations: they were from Indonesia and India, equally former colonies. These workers prepared their own traditional dishes with local ingredients which, in turn, became local specialties. Roti is one of those dishes.

The roti is a flat unsweetened pancake, made from flour, oil and water. Often there is no leavener like eggs, although sometimes baking powder will be used. The roti is heated on a hot plate where the baking powder will puff it up, creating pockets of air and a tender structure. In various countries around the world rotis are served one way or the other: sometimes as a breakfast item, covered with sweetened coconut milk or as dinner with a variety of side items. That's how I'm eating my roti today, with a side of potatoes, chicken and green beans. The traditional roti is filled with yellow lentils, but I'm just making an easy one today. If you want to skip this part, a flour tortilla will do just fine.

Surinamese Roti
For the roti
1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 cup of oil
1/4 of warm water
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
extra flour

Mix the flour, the baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl, and slowly mix in the oil and water. Knead into a flexible dough, adding flour if you need to. Let the dough rest, then cut and roll into balls the size of a small egg. Heat a griddle or cast iron pan. Roll a dough ball into a large, flat pancake and place it on the hot surface: the roti will puff up in various places. Turn it over with a spatula until the other side is done. Place them on a plate and cover with a towel.

For the chicken
1 tablespoon of oil
2 chicken legs and thighs (or two medium chicken breasts cut in large chunks)
1 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 cups of water
2 tablespoons of curry powder*
1 pinch of sugar
3 large potatoes, peeled and quartered

In a Dutch oven, heat a little bit of oil and brown the chicken on all sides. Add the garlic and the onion, sauté with the chicken for a couple of minutes. Add the curry, the water and the bouillon cube and stir in the pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer for thirty minutes. Add the potatoes (you may have to add a little bit of water if the water doesn't cover the potatoes) and simmer until the potatoes are done. If the sauce doesn't thicken with the potatoes, use a little bit of flour or cornstarch.

For the beans
The beans used in this dish are traditionally long beans, or yard beans. You may be able to find them in the Asian grocery stores. In this case, I used standard green beans, they make a valid substitution.

1 lb of green beans
3 cups of water
1 bouillon cube
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Cut the green beans in two inch pieces. Bring to a boil with the water and the bouillon cube and boil until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken, the potatoes and the beans on a plate and serve the warm roti on the side. Tear a piece of the roti and use it to pick up a piece of potato, chicken and green bean. Wrap it up and eat! This is not a dish to eat with fork and knive, but with your fingers....


* Curry powder is a very personal choice: some people prefer to use a store bought spice mix, others mix their own. For ease of use, and because I appreciate the flavor, I usually go with an instant curry roux from S&B, available in the Asian aisle of your local grocery store.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rode kool met appeltjes (Red cabbage with apple)

Around this time of year, when you walk along the narrow streets of Holland, you are guaranteed to smell the lovely, spicey, clove and nutmeg riddled smells of hachee. And if you stand still and concentrate on the mixture of smells coming from any traditional Dutch kitchen, you might be able to detect a sweet and sour undertone, a bit cabbage-like, but not much. You'd be so right! Red cabbage, braised with apples, is THE vegetable to serve with hachee and boiled potatoes. It's a typical Dutch winter dish.

Americans usually don't care for fruit in their foods, but you may want to give this a try. The sweetness of the apple combines perfectly with the tanginess of the cabbage and the vinegar, and makes for a beautiful mix.
As with practically any food, the braised cabbage will taste even better the next day (if there's any left). I've found myself many times sneaking a forkful of refrigerated cabbage in the middle of the night. The slight crunch of the cabbage, the sweet and sour combination, the tenderness of the apples......

Rode kool met appeltjes
1 medium sized red cabbage
2 small apples
4 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
2 tablespoons of red wine or apple cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons of sugar

Peel the outer, tough leaves off the cabbage. Cut the cabbage in half, then each half in half again. This will give you an easy opportunity to cut out the core which is tough and bitter. Slice each quarter in thin strips (I prefer a chunkier strip). Rinse the cabbage and add to a Dutch oven. Pour in enough water to cover the cabbage and set it on the stove. Add the bay leaves, cloves and cinnamon stick, cover and bring to a slow boil. Stir in the wine or the vinegar, add the sugar, stir and cover again. Let it slowly braise on the back of the stove.

In the meantime, peel, core and quarter your apples. Add them to the cabbage, and slowly simmer for another twenty minutes, or until the cabbage is soft.

Taste, adjust with salt and pepper. If you like it sweeter or tangier, add a bit more sugar or vinegar.
Red cabbage also pairs very well with game: rabbit, hare, venison and elk.



Monday, November 22, 2010

Griesmeelpudding met bessensaus (Grits Pudding)

Every now and then I come across a recipe in my Dutch cookbooks that surprises me once I try it. A traditional dessert called "griesmeelpudding" (grits pudding) sounded old-fashioned even when I was a little girl. My grandma never even made it, that's how old fashioned it was, imagine that!

My mom doesn't care for dairy so our milky desserts were few and far between. Come to think of it, we never ate much dessert, as neither my mom nor my grandma cared for sweets. I guess I've made up for both :-)

Anyway, "griesmeelpudding" did not sound appetizing, partly because of its perceived high "last century" factor, partly because the name "gries" (grits) forms also, phonetically, the first syllable for the verb "griezelen", i.e. shudder in horror ( a "griezelfilm" is a horror movie). Kids would often refer to the pudding as "griezelpudding" and would not eat it. No wonder!

But in my quest to cover the traditional Dutch kitchen, I cannot circumvent something so typically Dutch. And after deliberately cooking and baking twenty other things, I've finally come full circle and decided to tackle the griesmeelpudding. And I am SO glad I did!!

There is something inheritently comforting in the smell of warm milk with sugar. I don't know if it's because my grandma would make "lammetjespap" for me every so often and it reminds me of being a child, or whether it's a nurturing thing. No clue. But when I stand over the stove, warming up milk and stirring sweet sugar into it, I get this homey, warm, fuzzy feeling, perfect for these cold days.

The "griesmeelpudding" is very similar to rice pudding, as we know it here in the United States, but the berry sauce most definitely adds a characteristic and flavorful angle to it.

Griesmeelpudding
For the pudding:
1 cup of grits
4 cups of milk
3/4 cup of sugar
1 slice of lemon peel, no pith
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

For the sauce:
1 can of cranberry-raspberry sauce (or a small jar of berry jam)
1 cup of apple juice
1/2 cinnamon stick

Bring the milk to a slow boil, add the lemon peel and the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add in the grits, bring back to a boil but keep stirring to prevent the milk from burning. Lower the heat and cook for about six to seven minutes or until the grits are gorged, but stir every so often to make sure the bottom doesn't burn. Stir in the vanilla.

Rinse the pudding form with cold water and, after removing the lemon peel, pour the grits into the form. Set it in the fridge to cool. It will take a good five hour to set: even better if you can leave it overnight.

When you're ready to serve dessert, add the contents of the cranberry sauce or the berry jam to a small saucepan, add the apple juice or water to thin the sauce and the cinnamon stick. Stir well, bring to a boil, then simmer for a good twenty minutes. Thicken with cornstarch if needed. I decided to put my sauce through a sieve in order to remove all the raspberry seeds, but that's purely a personal preference.

Pour some warm water over the outside of the pudding form, lightly loosen the sides of the pudding and invert the whole thing onto a plate. Pour the thick berry sauce on top and on the sides, and enjoy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hallee, it's hachee day! (Stewed beef)

Hachee (hash-ay) is one of those old-fashioned dishes that pops up on the table the moment the temperature outside drops to "colder than dirt". Looking out the window and seeing snow, I knew it was time for a good old "stick to your ribs" kind of meal, and hachee is just the ticket!

November 15 is National Hachee Day in the Netherlands. The stewed beef dish has been around since the Middle Ages, where its main function was to use up all the pieces of meat that needed to be used up, combined with a bunch of onions, some leftover red wine and set to simmer on the back of the stove. It's such an easy and yet grateful dish to make, and a favorite of the Dutch. Cubes of beef, stewed in a sauce flavored with onions, bay leaf, vinegar, juniper berries and pepper corns, pair perfectly with creamy mashed potatoes and red cabbage.

This is a great dish to prepare in a Crock-Pot. Throw everything together in the morning, turn it on low and go on your merry way: when you come home, dinner will be ready! For this dish, I tend to use chuck pot roast, or a bottom round or rump roast: it's a cheaper cut of meat that will benefit greatly from this cooking method.

Hachee
2 lbs of beef, cubed
1 tablespoon of butter
3 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon of flour
1/2 beef bouillon cube, or homemade beef bouillon
4 cups of water
3 bay leaves
3 cloves, whole
4 juniper berries (optional)
8 pepper corns
3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or red wine
Salt
Pepper

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and quickly brown the cubed beef. Add the onions and stir in with the beef until the onions are translucent. Sprinkle the flour over the beef, crumble the bouillon cube and add with four coups of water to the pan. The meat has to be almost submerged. Add the bay leaves, cloves (I stick them in a piece of onion so I can find them again), juniper berries if you want and the pepper corns, then stir in the vinegar or the wine. Bring to a slow boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for a good two hours.

Try a little piece of meat to see if it's tender to your liking. Remove the meat onto a plate, adjust the sauce with salt and pepper or a little vinegar if you like it more tangy and reduce slightly. Add the meat back in, stir to cover, and serve with mashed potatoes and red cabbage, or over a plate of rice.


To make it really Dutch, don't forget the "kuiltje" (pothole)
in your mashed potatoes for the gravy!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hete Bliksem (Mashed potatoes with apple and salt pork)

 In this quest to investigate, research and write about the culinary traditions of my country, I stumble across some very interesting details. For one, I think there is nary a thing a Dutch person wouldn't add to a dish of mashed potatoes: we have mashed potatoes with carrots (hutspot), mashed potatoes with kale (boerenkool), mashed potatoes with sauerkraut, a whole array of mashed potatoes with greens and today I am making mashed potatoes with apple.

Boerenkool
The potato was first introduced in the Netherlands in the early 1600's but was not officially recognized as fit for human consumption until 1727. Since then, the country has been producing a large variety of potatoes such as Eigenheimers, Bintjes, Alphas, Irenes, Gelderse muisjes. As with other agricultural products, Holland is one of the market leaders regarding the export on potatoes.

The traditional meal in Holland consists of the Dutch trinity: meat, vegetables and spuds. Most traditionally boiled, potatoes can also be served fried or mashed. One of my favorites are pan-fried potatoes: boil some extra potatoes the day before, chill them, then slice the next day and fry in some butter in a skillet until they are golden brown and crispy. Yum!

Hete Bliksem
Today's dish is called "hete bliksem" or hot lightning. Not entirely sure what generated the name. Some say it's because the high amount of liquid in the mash: the dish stays hot longer than other types of mashed potatoes. That is true, there is no additional milk needed to mash these potatoes and apples into a smooth consistency and it does stay warm longer. Other names for this savory and sweet potato dish are "heaven and earth" referring to the source of apples (heaven) and potatoes (earth), or "thunder and lightning".

The key is to use a mixture of sweet and tart apples, 2 parts potato, 1 part apple. Jonagolds, Braeburns and Jonathans will do well by themselves as they possess both flavors.

Hete Bliksem
8 large potatoes
4 apples (2 sweet, 2 tart)
4 slices of salted pork

Peel and cube the potatoes and place them in a pan with just enough water to cover them. Peel and core the apples, cut in halves and place on top of the potatoes, top with the slices of salt pork. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer for twenty minutes or until potatoes are done. Remove the pork, pour off the water (save some) and mash the apples and potatoes to your liking, lumpy or smooth. If it's too dry, add a tablespoon at a time of the cooking liquid. Taste. Adjust with salt and pepper if needed.

Slice the pork in narrow strips, mix in with the mashed potatoes and serve. Good with a lick of mustard.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pasteitje met ragout (Puff pastry with chicken and mushroom gravy)

As Calvinistic as we are, bent on not having too much of anything and claiming that "being normal is crazy enough", we are set on extending the Christmas celebrations over two days instead of one. First Christmas Day is December 25th, Second Christmas Day is December 26th. And if you are part of those families that also celebrate Christmas Eve, that makes it two days and a half.

Christmas Eve is traditionally the night where you dress up, go to evening mass (even those that are not raised in the church will often attend) and upon return to the house round off the celebrations with hot chocolate and, how else, a bread meal with luxury rolls.

First Christmas Day is a formal dinner day and a day that is generally celebrated with family only. If you are invited to someone's home on First Christmas Day, and you are not family or in any way related, it is quite an honor! This is also the day that will determine where you stand, family-wise. In trying to keep the peace between families and in-laws, children often switch back and forth between families on 1st and 2nd Christmas Day: one year you will celebrate dinner at your parent's on the 1st, the next year it's at your significant other's parents. Being invited, or visited, on 2nd Christmas Day almost automatically classifies you as 2nd class family member......

Second Christmas Day is much less formal. It's when the leftovers are eaten, and everybody runs around in their "house suit", sweats and jammies, hanging in front of the TV or going for long, wintery walks to get some fresh air. Friends will sometimes come over for a drink and a chat, and a less formal dinner (not leftovers!!).

So many of these traditions are slowly changing but one of the standard items on Christmas Day is this appetizer or starter for the meal: a puff pastry cup filled with a chicken and mushroom gravy. It is so seventies, but it is one of those dishes that is comforting, filling and familiar at the same time.

I had some chicken leftover from last night's dinner club. It's getting close to Christmas and all of a sudden I had a hankering for a pasteitje met ragout.......

Pasteitjes are sold ready-to-use in Holland. As there is no such thing here, I made my own.

Pasteitje met ragout
For the pasteitje:
2 sheets of puff pastry
1 tablespoon of flour
1 egg, beaten

Dust the counter with flour and thaw the sheets. Cut eight circles out of the pastry dough. Out of four of these circles, press a smaller circle from the middle. Wet the full circles with a little bit of water, place the rings on top and brush the whole pastry with egg. Place the cut outs on the side, and brush as well.

Bake on a sheetpan in a 400F oven for ten minutes or until golden and puffy. Cool on a wire rack.

Ragout
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 chicken breast
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
3 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 small can of mushrooms (or one cup of fresh mushrooms, sliced)
2 1/2 cups of white wine
2 1/2 cup of warm water
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 bay leaves
thyme
pepper

1 tablespoon of flour
2 tablespoons of water

If you have time, marinate the chicken breast the night before in a bowl with the wine, water, onions, bay leaves, thyme and crushed garlic cloves. 

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven, dry the chicken and quickly brown the chicken on all sides. Add the sliced onion and the garlic cloves and sauté until translucent. Add the wine, the warm water, the bouillon cube and the mushrooms and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, add the bay leaves, a sprinkle of thyme and pepper and simmer for at least 45 minutes.

Take the chicken out of the sauce. The meat should be tender enough that you can pull it apart with two forks. If not, return to the pan and simmer longer.

Taste the sauce and see if it needs adjusting with pepper and/or salt. Make a paste with the flour and the water and add to the gravy, bring up the heat and while stirring, thicken the sauce. Add the shredded chicken to the gravy.

Carefully place the pasteitjes on a plate, fill with ragout, sprinkle with some parsley if you want and serve!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Erwtensoep (Split pea soup)


Oh, the ubiquitous Dutch split pea soup......on my way from work I saw snow on the mountains and it made me think of erwtensoep, split pea soup. When it's cold in Holland and people go ice skating on the lakes and the canals, it is traditional that a small food shack called "koek-en-zopie" sits next to the ice, selling hot split pea soup, coffee, mulled wine and cookies. It's a great way to warm up for those tired and cold after such a wonderful day on the ice. I'll be darned, but each time I've gone skating I've never seen one of those shacks. May have something to do with the fact that I've only been skating once or twice in my life and the experience was so unpleasant that I may have blocked the memory of a soup shack. I fail miserably in the skating department, it is a very un-Dutch side of me.......

But I hopefully redeemed myself by making a very good split pea soup: it even passed the "wooden spoon" test! (i.e. the soup is so thick that a wooden spoon will stand up on its end and not fall over when stuck in the soup).  Hand over those bitterballen, I'm back!

Erwtensoep
2 cups of split peas
4 cups of water
1 carrot, peeled
2 ribs of celery
1/2 an onion, peeled
1 bay leaf
black pepper
pinch of salt

About 12 little smokies or half a kielbasa

Rinse the split peas and remove anything that doesn't belong (stones, sticks, dried up discolored peas...). Put the peas and the water in a Dutch oven. Mince the vegetables and add to the peas. Bring to a boil, add the bay leaf and simmer for about 40 minutes. When the peas are soft, remove the bay leaf and either puree or just stir the soup several times, the peas will dissolve and give it a creamy consistence. Stir in the smokies or the kielbasa (slice before adding), heat until warm and taste. Add pepper and salt if needed.

This is an easy, quick solution for when you come home and want a filling, comforting soup. I keep a pack of smokies in the freezer just for this soup. Split peas do not have to be soaked in order to cook quickly so you can have this soup on the table in less than an hour. If you have more time, use the same ingredients but simmer the soup with a smoked ham hock instead.....the soup will be so much richer and smokier for it, but little smokies will do in a pinch.

Traditionally, this soup is served with dark rye bread and pancetta.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Boerenkool met worst (Kale potatoes with kielbasa)

It looks like it froze for the first time last night. Bad news for the garden's summer vegetables, but this is the time that other veggies benefit from cold nights, like kale. The Dutch have a very solid and varied repertoire of winter dishes: solid in the sense that they all consist of the culinary trinity (meat, vegetables and potatoes) and varied because well....because there is scarcely a thing the Dutch don't add to their famous "stamppot". Literally meaning 'stomped pot", stamppot is a dish that consists of boiled potatoes mashed with a raw or cooked vegetable. The meat is either served on top, on the side or cut into small pieces and mixed in. If the choice of protein generates any type of pan juice or jus, it will be served in a small hollow made on top of the mashed potato dish, the so-called "kuiltje jus" (kinda like a pothole in the road but different).

Those that know me well will be surprised to see that I served up mashed potatoes with kale, a dish simply called "boerenkool". There are few things in the food world that I don't care for, and one of them is boerenkool. Or was, should I say. Somehow the American kale is not half as bitter as the Dutch one is, so after preparing this dish with Michiel for Idaho's Melting Pot, I was pleasantly surprised, enough even to go home and cook it for myself two days later.

Kale is a dark-leaf vegetable that will add plenty of nutrition to your diet: it is riddled with vitamins and minerals and contributes plenty of protein. The butter and the kielbasa....not so much.

Kale with kielbasa
3 bunches of kale (or 1 lb)
6 large potatoes
3 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of milk, warmed
1 smoked kielbasa
Salt

Cut the leaves off the stems and slice the leaves into narrow strips. Peel the potatoes, quarter them and place them in a Dutch oven. Add water to barely cover the potatoes, then put the kale on top, add the kielbasa. Cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil. Boil on a low flame for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are done. Remove the kielbasa, pour off any cooking liquid that may remain and mash the vegetables with a fork or a potato masher. Add the butter and the milk and stir the whole into a creamy consistency. Slice the kielbasa and place it on top of the stamppot. Serve with mustard if desired.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bitterballen (Dutch deep-fried gravy)

In Holland, a night out on the town, or a social event with coworkers, usually starts out at a local café, with a beer and something called a "bittergarnituur". The word translates as the slightly confusing "garnish for bitters", where bitters in this case refers to alcoholic beverages. The Dutch were one of the first to dedicate themselves to perfecting the distillation process, presenting the world with spirits such as Dutch gin (jenever) and a large variety of liqueurs and bitters, these last ones presumably with medicinal properties. Nowadays, one of the most famous drinks is Ketel One, a Dutch vodka that is especially popular in the United States.

Alcohol is traditionally consumed with something savory on the side, and thus the bittergarnituur was invented. This colorful platter will usually contain bite-size cubes of Gouda cheese, miniature eggrolls and meatballs, perhaps some slices of salami or chorizo and ofcourse, how can it not, the marvelous bitterballen.

Bitterballen are one of Holland's favorite snacks. In the early and mid-1900s, they were the housewife's perfect way to transform yesterday's meat leftovers into today's appetizer. Served shaped as a log (kroket) or in bite-size rounds, bitterballen were often served as an aperitif, or tapa, before lunch or dinner.

Nowadays, bitterballen are predominantly served outside the home, either as part of the bittergarnituur or as a snack on the side with a portion of French fries, but are no longer part of the housewife's culinary repertoire.

This deep-fried, crispy, bite-size ball of meaty gravy is to be eaten with a good, savory mustard. Take the bitterbal between thumb and index finger, dip one side into the mustard and pop the whole thing in your mouth. No double-dipping!

Bitterballen are traditionally made with beef, but can also be made with chicken, veal or even with mushrooms, for those that prefer a vegetarian option.

Bitterballen
2 sticks of butter
1 cup of flour
3 cups of beef stock
3 tablespoons of onion, minced
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, minced
2 cups of shredded cooked beef
salt
pepper
nutmeg

For the breading
1/2 cup of flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups of bread crumbs

Make a roux with the butter and the flour (slowly melt the butter in a skillet or pan. When melted, add the flour little by little and stir into a thick paste). Slowly stir in the stock, making sure the roux absorbs the liquid. Simmer for a couple of minutes on a low heat while you stir in the onion, parsley and the shredded beef. Taste, add pepper and salt and a pinch of nutmeg. Taste again and adjust if necesssary.

Pour the meat gravy into a shallow container, cover and refrigerate for several hours, or until the gravy has solidified.

Take a heaping tablespoon of the cold, thick gravy and quickly roll it into a small ball. Roll lightly through the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Make sure that the egg covers the whole surface of the bitterbal. (If it doesn't, the filling will spill out into the fryer and you will be left with a hollow shell, and a messy fryer!). Set each ball aside on a plate. When done, refrigerate the snacks while the oil in your fryer heats up to 375F.

Fry five to six balls at a time, until golden brown. Serve on a plate with a nice grainy or spicy mustard.



Makes approximately 20 bitterballen.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Macaroni (Dutch Macaroni)

Ten percent of the Dutch population thinks that macaroni and chili con carne are.......Dutch dishes. I kid you not. Eighty-seven percent of that same population eats macaroni at least once a week. When you ask children here in the USA what their favorite kind of food is, they'll usually say: Pizza! Dutch kids would tell you that macaroni was their favorite food.

A Dutch TV show called "Man Bijt Hond" ("Man bites dog") has a section called "Hond Aan Tafel", where the camara crew knocks on a random house door around dinner time and asks the surprised habitants if they can join them. Most often the answer is yes, and the short scene allows for a peek in the life of just an ordinary person. Nine out of then, the answer to "What's for dinner?" is...you guessed it.....macaroni.

And they're not the only ones that love macaroni. Yours truly enjoys a huge plate of the salty, warm, comforting pasta with a pickle on the side to provide some crunch, yummmmm!!!!!!!!!!!! It's one of the many reasons why I keep ground beef in the freezer: once the meat is thawed, this dish is quick and easy to prepare. Just what you need when you're looking for some comfort!

Dutch Macaroni
3 cups of elbow macaroni or fusilli
1 lb of ground beef
1/2 a leek, white only, sliced thin
1 red pepper
1 sachet of macaroni spices*
1 small can of tomato sauce
Pickles, optional

Cook the macaroni according to instructions. Brown the ground beef in a skillet, pour off the fat and add in strips of red pepper and the sliced leek. Stir in the spices and the tomato sauce, simmer for ten minutes. Add the macaroni and mix with the sauce. Serve warm.



* I buy the macaroni spices in Dutch stores online, but the spaghetti spice mix packages that are available in your standard supermarket is practically the same.

Mosselen (Steamed mussels)

I don't actually know that there is such a thing as Belgian-style mussels but I'm not entirely making this name up either. The way these are prepared are very similar to how they're eaten on the Belgian coast. With a dipping sauce, some bread and, here I am majorly lacking today, some golden fries.

In the Netherlands, mussels are usually on the menu when the letter "R" is present in the name of the month: from September till April, you can find mussels on the menu at restaurants, for sale at the fish mongers and on the stove in Dutch kitchens all over the country. Well, I wasn't up for making fries what with one thing and another, but I didn't mind making the sauce and baking the bread. "R" has been in the months for a long time and I was really starting to crave these puppies!


I dug out a bag of mussels from the freezer. They're so quick to prepare and totally hit the spot today: their salty, oceany smell reminded me of summer, of holidays on the beach and of happy times. Get frozen ones if you can, they've been cleaned and scrubbed already and will save you a lot of time. Don't eat the ones that have broken shells or don't open up during the cooking process: they're likely to be bad and may make you sick.

Mussels
2 pounds of mussels
1 rib of celery, diced
1/2 carrot, peeled and diced
2 shallots, peeled and quartered
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups of white wine
2 cups of water

Dipping sauce
2 tablespoons of mustard
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of vinegar

Mix into a smooth sauce.

Put the water, the wine, shallots, carrots, garlic and celery in a Dutch oven with a lid. Bring to a boil. Lift the lid, add the mussels and boil for seven to eight minutes. The mussels will open up and will be ready to eat.

To serve, place the pan on the table with an extra plate for the shells. Serve with fries and a dipping sauce. Use your fingers to pull the mussels out of the shells or a small fork, dip into the sauce and eat up.

Bruine Bonen met Rijst (Brown beans with rice)

I love beans and try to eat them at least once a week: they're healthy, affordable, quick and versatile and tasty to boot, but that was not what I set out to prepare.

I pulled a pound of hamburger out of the freezer on Monday to make Dutch sausage rolls but I ended up making Brat buns instead. So I thought I'd make spaghetti tonight, but by the time I walked in the door, it was too late to get that started (plus I wanted to make sure I could catch the 6:30 pm episode of "The Office") so.....I'm rummaging through the fridge to see what I can scrounge up and here is this sad little piece of salt pork, just sitting there, all by its lonesome self. And immediately brown beans and rice come to mind: it's quick, it's tasty and mighty comforting on a cold, windy night like this one.

Brown beans and rice, or as we say in Holland, bruine bonen met rijst, is a typical dish from Suriname, a former colony of the Netherlands. Here in America, I don't have easy access to the Dutch brown beans, so I use pinto beans instead.

Brown beans with Rice
1 small piece of salt pork
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tomato, deseeded and chopped
2 cans of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup of water

1/4 cup of tomato sauce
1 teaspoon of ginger
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 beef bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup of celery leaves
1 tablespoon of sugar

1 cup of instant rice
Water

Cut the salt pork in small dice, then fry in a Dutch oven until soft. Add the onion and the garlic. Stir until soft, then add the tomato. When the tomato has softened as well, add the beans, the water, the tomato sauce, ginger, pepper, the bouillon cube and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about twenty minutes. Taste and adjust (don't add any salt before tasting, the pork tends to be salty enough), add the sugar and the celery leaves, remove the bay leaf and stir everything together. Simmer for another five minutes while you prepare the rice.

Put the rice in a microwaveable bowl, add enough water so that the rice is covered, then microwave on high for two and a half minutes. Let it sit to dry for a minute or two, then stir.

Serve the beans on top of the rice. Nice with some crunchy slices of cucumber.


Yummmmm....that totally hit the spot. Now I have to think of what to do with that thawed hamburger meat....

Hutspot met klapstuk (Carrot mashed potatoes with braised beef)

Yesterday, the city of Leiden celebrated the victory in 1547 over the Spanish invaders. It's an annual celebration during which the Leideners consume large amounts of white bread with herring and even larger amounts of something called hutspot, a colorful mashed potato dish. It's not only eaten on the 3rd of October, but is an extremely popular evening meal during the cold winter days. Hutspot is traditionally served with klapstuk, a piece of braised beef, but sometimes will also be eaten with a typical Dutch meatball. The best carrots to use for this dish are winterpenen, a larger and thicker variety of the orange carrot that is harvested shortly after the first frost. The sugars in the carrot add a hint of sweetness to this dish that will appeal to almost any eater, young or old.

The origin of this particular choice of starchy food goes back to a small remainder of stew that was presumably left behind in a large copper pot by the fleeing Spanish army. A young man found the still warm stew and shared it triumphantly with the rest of the starving Leiden-ers. Or at least with those that didn't like herring, I'm sure.

The name of this dish does not sound very appetizing, not even in Dutch. Loosely translated it means "hotchpotch with slap piece". Well, there you go, see what I mean? Who wants to eat that?

But, as is often the case, appearance deceives. In this particular example, the name is not very flattering and quite honestly, neither is the picture. But the taste will convince anyone that there is more to this dish than a silly name.

It is said that the original stew contained parsnips and white beans, and that the meat in the stew was mutton. How it came to be carrots with potatoes and beef.....only history knows. The carrot appeared in Holland for the first time in the 17th century, out of Iran, and was cross-polinated until it had a bright orange color, to honor the royal family, the Oranges. At that point, the carrot was introduced to the rest of Europe and hey presto! Long live the Queen and orange carrots for all!

As for the "slap piece": klapstuk is the meat that is cut from the rib. I used slices of beef chuck rib roast and it worked beautifully. The meat is marbled and during its 90 minute braising time will release all kinds of wonderful flavors and most of the fat. You'll love it!

Hutspot met klapstuk
For the meat
1 lb of sliced beef chuck rib roast
2 cups water
1/2 beef bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
8 black pepper corns, whole
1 tablespoon flour, dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Add the water to a Dutch oven or a braising pan, add the bouillon cube and stir until dissolved. Add the beef, the bay leaf and the pepper corns and braise on low heat for approximately 90 minutes or until beef is tender.

Remove the meat to a serving dish, discard the bay leaf and peppercorns and stir the dissolved flour into the pan juices. Stir scraping the bottom of the pan, loosening any meat particles that may be stuck. Bring the heat slowly up until the gravy starts to thicken. Pour the gravy over the meat and set aside, keeping it warm.

For the hutspot
6 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
8 large carrots, peeled and diced
4 large onions, peeled and sliced
2 cups of water
Pinch of salt

Place the peeled and quartered potatoes on the bottom of a Dutch oven. Pour in the water so the potatoes are just covered. Add the pinch of salt. Put the carrots on top, and finish with the onions. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and boil for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Pour off the cooking water, but save it. Mash the potatoes, carrots and onions until you achieve a mashed potato consistency or leave larger lumps, that's a personal preference. If you need more liquid to make it smoother, add a tablespoon of cooking liquid at a time. Taste, adjust with salt and pepper.



Now place a large scoop of hutspot on a warm plate. With the rounded side of a spoon, make an indentation on top of the hutspot, like a pothole. This is the famous "kuiltje". Put a slice of beef on top and pour a tablespoon or two of gravy into the kuiltje, and serve your beautiful, Dutch dish. All you need now is a pair of clogs and a picture of the Queen on the wall :-) Nah....not really.