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.