Monday, February 2, 2015

Spruitjesstamppot

Your kids will most surely not be impressed when they hear you're serving spruitjes for dinner. And let's face it, quite a few adults will also pout at the thought. The thing with Brussels sprouts is that you either love them, or you hate them, but few are indifferent to the enticing (or revolting, depending on what side you're on) taste of spruitjes.

Brussels sprouts, those little miniature green cabbages on a stalk, have been grown for centuries in Europe, reportedly brought in with the Romans, presumably grown in Brussels (hence the name), although the history is a bit lacking on the initial provenance of the vegetable. I guess even back then spruitjes weren't all that much to get excited over. It never deterred the Dutch, though. Whether you prefer them boiled, mashed, shredded..... the Dutch have a recipe for it. We love our spruitjes!

And why not? The good-natured sprout is chock-full of vitamin C. One cup of these lovely green leafy marbles provides you with one and a half times your daily value of vitamin C. I mean, really! That's more than an orange will give you any day.

And this wintry weather sure asks for plenty of vitamin C. Many of us are still trying to recover from a nasty cold *cough*. Another thing we can never get enough of is a good stamppot. Let's face it, it's the ultimate Dutch comfort food: a plate of steaming stamppot , whether it's hutspot, zuurkool, boerenkool or hete bliksem, has chased many a winter blues away. And today we're adding spruitjesstamppot to the list!

The key to spruitjes cooking is time: not too long, so as to maintain the amount of vitamins, but also to avoid the well-known "spruitjeslucht", the smell of overcooked sprouts. Mixed in with the vegetables, spruitjes lose some of their dreaded bitterness and become palatable even to the most fervent sprout-hater. And if it doesn't? Well, hey, more for you! ;-)

Spruitjesstamppot
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced
4 fresh bratwurst
1 cup of water
1/2 beef bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
2 lbs potatoes
1 lb Brussels Sprouts
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Melt the butter in a skillet and fry the onions until golden brown. Take out of the skillet and set aside. Now fry the brats in the skillet until brown. Lower the heat, add the onions back in the pan. Add a cup of warm water, half a beef bouillon cube and a bay leaf to the pan, cover and let the meat simmer on the back burner.

In the meantime, peel, wash and quarter your potatoes.  Wash the sprouts, cut the hard bottom end off if needed (after being cut off the stalk, the bottom end of the sprout will dry out and become hard) and cut the bigger sprouts in half. Put the potatoes, with a generous pinch of salt and just enough water to cover them, on the stove and bring to a boil. Cover with a fitting lid.

After ten minutes, add the Brussels sprouts on top of the potatoes, cover and boil for another ten minutes. Lift the lid and see it the potatoes are done - the sprouts should be bright green by now! If the potatoes are done (it should be easy to poke a fork right through the potato) and the sprouts seem tender as well, take the pan off the stove. Drain the cooking liquid but do not throw it away!

Mash your potatoes and sprouts - if you have a potato masher, that's great, if not just use a large fork. Blending or whipping potatoes in a mixer will turn the whole thing into a glue-like paste! Pour a quarter cup of cooking liquid into the mashed potatoes and fold in the liquid. Taste (careful, it's hot!!). Do you like the texture, or is it too crumbly? If you want it smoother, add another quarter cup of liquid and fold it in again. Also adjust your salt at this time.

Mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with a quarter cup of cold water and stir well. Take the brats and the onions out of the pan, bring the gravy to a boil and stir in the cornstarch slurry until the gravy thickens.

Serve a steaming plate of spruitjesstamppot, add a bratwurst and pour some onion gravy over it, and eet smakelijk!!







Sunday, January 18, 2015

Kwast

We're sick. Well.....not full-blown sick, but we have a case of the sniffles and the coughs. And we're not feeling very good. We're a little bit ziekjes. And our throat also hurts a tiny little bit, too. So tonight we're going to bed early and see if we can sweat it out. Usually, we have a cup of anijsmelk as our night cap, but not tonight. Tonight, we're having a mug of kwast. Oma's orders!

The Dutch have a small variety of hot beverages that all seem to serve a purpose: anijsmelk (sweet hot milk flavored with anise) to lull us to sleep, zopie (warm Bock beer with cinnamon, sugar and eggs) to warm us up after hours of skating on the ice, and kwast to knock out the evil spirits of upcoming or lingering colds. Kwast especially is one of those beverages that has become a much-relied-on home remedy, a grandma staple, for when you're suffering from a cold. Whether it *really* helps or not is disputed - but the extra vitamin C and the increased body temperature that comes from drinking something hot while covered with blankets may have very well something to do with it.

Kwast is a hot beverage made with freshly squeezed lemon juice, boiling hot water, sweet, comforting honey and, for those that desire a bit more fortitude, a splash of alcohol. It's especially popular during this time of year when a good night's sleep, an extra dose of vitamin C and a way to sweat out those first signs of a cold are needed!

So without further ado, we're heading to bed, mug in hand. And while we sip our hot, lemony kwast carefully, we tuck ourselves in under het dekbed, the duvet, looking forward to a good night's sleep. Tomorrow is another day!

Sleep well and beterschap!

Kwast
Half a lemon
8 oz water
1 heaping teaspoon honey
Optional: splash of whisky, rum or brandy

Juice the lemon half and add it to a mug. Bring the water to a boil, pour it over the lemon juice. Stir in the honey. Taste. If you'd like it sweeter, add a bit more honey. Stir in the splash of whisky, rum or brandy, if desired.

Sip slowly while covered with blankets,and feel better in the morning!





Monday, January 5, 2015

We made the Top Ten of Hottest Dutch Food Blogs!



Photo: Thank you all for a fantastic 2014! We look forward to 2015 - with more cooking and baking and sharing our Dutch culinary heritage with you, so you can pass it on to those you love!

We hope that 2015 is going to be a very happy and amazing, creative, tasty and gezellig year for all of our readers!

For The Dutch Table, the year starts well. We are proud to be listed in Trendbubbles Top Ten of Hottest Dutch Food Blogs! Click the link to see who the other nine are, and find some great blogs for Dutch food and recipes.

http://trendbubbles.nl/de-10-hotste-nederlandse-foodblogs/




Friday, December 19, 2014

Bisschopswijn

Sometimes, when it's really cold outside and you need a serious boost of warmth, a cup of coffee will simply not do. Those days that a frosty winter wind chills you to the bone, little to nothing will satisfy the need for heat, unless it's a glass of steaming, sweet and spicy mulled wine.

The Netherlands, as many other Northern countries, has its own version of a warming, citrus and spice flavored wine drink. It's perfect for warming up after spending a blistery cold afternoon skating on the canals! The concept of hot wine is thought to have been introduced by the Romans, who already heated wine for drinking as early as the 2nd century. During their travels, they brought their beverages with them, and the rest as they say is history. Virtually every country that has access to wine and cold weather has some variety of mulled wine, as can be seen here. Each country used particular fruits and spices: the Scandinavian countries for example often add cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger: three flavors that are also readily found in their baked goods.

The Dutch call their mulled wine bisschopswijn, or bishop's wine. It is a sweet red or white wine, flavored with citrus (but oranges only), cloves, star anise and cinnamon. The warm wine is predominantly consumed during those early days of December, when that other bishop, Sint Nicolaas, is in the country. According to this news reel of 1952, Sinterklaas is quite fond of the sweet concoction himself!

Nevertheless, don't let the time frame hold you back. Bisschopswijn can be enjoyed any day of the year that you need a quick, comforting and warming drink!

Bisschopswijn
1 bottle of sweet wine (red or white)
1 orange
3 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise pods
5 whole cloves
Sugar or honey (optional)

Add the red wine to a small saucepan on the stove, and add the cinnamon sticks and anise pods. Cut the orange in half lengthwise and stud one half with the cloves. Cut the other half in even slices. Add everything to the pan, and let it simmer for thirty minutes. Don't allow it to come up to a boil as the alcohol will evaporate - a large warming feature of this mulled wine is the fact that the alcohol content is preserved.

Taste and adjust the sweetness, if needed, with sugar or honey. You can add some hot water if the wine is too strong, or substitute half of the wine with cranberry or pomegranate juice for a lower alcohol level. Using only juice in combination with the fruit and the spices makes it a child-friendly drink. Serve warm or hot!





Monday, December 15, 2014

Amandelbroodjes

The month of December could just as well be called "almond month". It's when specialties such as gevulde speculaas, banketletter, banketstaaf, and kerststol show up in bakeries and cafés, and at coffee time with friends or family. For many, these Dutch pastries and breads signify the welcome arrival of the winter festivities, such as Sinterklaas and Christmas.

These baked goods all have almonds in common: they're filled with the sweet, slightly sticky substance called "amandelspijs" or almond paste, that is so loved by many. Almonds have been part of our baking history for many centuries: the earliest Middle Dutch cookbook "Wel ende edelike spijse" already mentions a variety of almond dishes, such as almond butter and almond bread porridge. It seems that we developed a sweet tooth and a craving for almonds early on!

Today's pastries are called "amandelbroodjes". These almond filled treats used to be so popular that a Protestant church in The Hague sold them by the thousands to finance their new chapel! Its name literally translates to "almond rolls", but they're hardly rolls. They're more like the apple turnovers, or appelflappen, that we're familiar with. The good thing is that they're easy to make, and quick to bake. The bad news is that they'll disappear in no time, as they are absolutely delectable. It's hard to deny yourself the pleasure of biting into a warm piece of banket!

Amandelbroodjes
8 oz* slivered almonds
8 oz* sugar
1 teaspoon almond essence
1 large egg
Zest of 1/2 lemon

8 squares of puff pastry

1/4 cup coarse sugar

Add the almonds, the 8 oz of sugar, the almond essence, one large egg and the lemon zest to a food processor, and pulse repeatedly until the paste comes together. It should be sticky but stiff, and you should still be able to see itty-bitty pieces of almond and sugar crystals.

Preheat the oven to 385F. Take 2 oz of the almond paste and roll it into a small log. Wet the puff pastry with a  little bit of water, and place the log slightly to the right of the middle (see picture above). Fold the dough over so that the long ends meet, and pinch the dough together or use a small fork to push the tines into the dough and sealing it. Brush a little bit of water on the top of the turnover and dip it into the coarse sugar.

When all turnovers have been filled and folded, you can place them in the fridge until you are ready to bake. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat and cover with plastic so they don't dry out. You can wrap and freeze any leftover spijs.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and puffy. No worries if they look too big, the dough will slightly collapse as it cools!

Almond paste gets really, really hot, so don't bite into a hot amandelbroodje just yet.....let it cool until warm to the touch - that's when they're at their best!





* Volume ounces are different than weight ounces. A full measuring cup of 8 volume ounces does not necessarily equal 8 weight ounces: imagine the difference between a cup of feathers and a cup of lead! The ounces for this recipe are by weight, not by volume.