Thursday, August 7, 2014

Kersenstruif


Kersen, or cherries, are grown abundantly in the Netherlands. Old-fashioned varieties with fun and mysterious names such as Mierlose Zwarte, Udense Spaanse, Meikersen, Dikke Loenen, Pater van Mansveld and Morellen (pie cherries) can be found in fruit-rich areas such as Limburg, De Betuwe or the Kromme Rijnstreek, close to Utrecht. During the eighties and nineties, many of the cherry orchards were eradicated because of urban development, but in the last several years, a new movement to bring back some of the old-fashioned varieties is quite successful.

Until the 1970's, the small village of Mierlo in the province of Brabant was THE place for all cherry lovers to travel to during the season. Because of its calcium-rich soil, the Mierlose Zwarte, the black cherry of Mierlo, was a favorite indulgence, popular because of its particular flavor and sweetness. It was also the cherry of choice to bake kersenstruif with, cherry pancakes, a traditional dish during the short cherry season. People would beg, bargain or steal to make sure they obtained a pound or two of the harvest so that they did not have to miss out on this treat!

The Mierlose Zwarte also suffered from the urban sprawl and during these last thirty years, production was minimal. Fortunately, growers like the Van Der Linden family at the Kersenboerderij kept a small part of the orchard with original trees, and are currently very successful in grafting and expanding this heirloom orchard.

The season for Dutch cherries is short, starting around June 1st, and barely making it to mid-July. Cherries are best eaten fresh, and are most often consumed that way by the Dutch. It is therefore not surprising that there are only a few recipes that involve cherries in a different fashion: kersenvlaai (cherry pie), kersenpap (cherry porridge) and today's recipe, kersenstruif. These recipes work best with slightly overripe, dark, sweet cherries. Since we don't have access to the Mierlose Zwarte, the Bing cherry is a usable substitute.

I read somewhere that, traditionally, people left the pits in the cherries for this dish: I am unsure as to how this would contribute to a better flavor, and can only imagine what harm it may cause. Therefore, I highly recommend pitting and halving the cherries before you add them to the pan! 

Kersenstruif
Four cups pitted and halved sweet, dark Bing cherries
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour*
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
Pinch of salt
Butter

Beat the flour, sugar, vanilla, eggs with one cup of milk and the pinch of salt, until you have a silky smooth batter. Stand for ten minutes, covered. If the batter thickens, add a little bit more milk, a tablespoon at a time.

Melt a little bit of butter in your favorite non-stick pan or on your pancake skillet. Distribute half a cup of pitted cherries on the melted, then pour approximately a fourth of a cup of batter over the cherries. Bake at medium heat until the pancake bubbles up and starts to dry on top. Use a large spatula to flip the cherry pancake and continue to bake it on the other side.

Serve with powdered sugar. Makes approximately 8 pancakes.



* if you don't have self-rising flour, add a scant tablespoon of baking powder to all-purpose flour, or two teaspoons of active dry yeast. If you use yeast, warm the milk to 110F, and allow the batter to sit for twenty minutes, then stir it down.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Aardbeienjam

Strawberries, or aardbeien, are a welcome sign in early summer. The moment the first crate of these zomerkoninkjes (called King of Summer because of its little green crown) hit the market, you'll see strawberries in everything: on beschuit, on fresh fruit tarts, or on slices of fresh, white, buttered bread if you're lucky!

The actual natural strawberry season only lasts for a good five to six weeks, from early June until mid July, but the Netherlands is able to produce about 20 million pounds a year because of their ingenious greenhouse and plastic tunnel systems. It keeps us in strawberries practically year round, except for the first two months of the year, when the runners are being refrigerated for up to 10 weeks before being put in the soil. The strawberry that is most popular in Holland is the Elsanta variety.

It goes without saying that strawberries freshly picked in the field, that are still a little warm from the sun, are hands-down the best for eating fresh. So if you're growing your own, or have the chance to get your hands on some, enjoy them while you can! If you are not able to get around to eating all of them immediately, but don't want them to go to waste, making a quick jam* is a second option.

If you find yourself in the country during this time of year, you may enjoy visiting Het Aardbeienland, a small theme park in Limburg. Its main focus is, you guessed it, strawberries! There is plenty of opportunity to pick your own, learn about new and heirloom varieties, have the kids play in the playground or walk around the Strawberry Forest.

Aardbeienjam
1 lb strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon pectin powder

Add the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and water to a small saucepan. Bring the pan up to heat, and let the mixture simmer for about twenty minutes, on low, until the fruit is soft. Mash with a fork or potato masher. Stir in the pectin, bring up to a boil and stir for a whole minute, then take off the stove and let it cool. Pour the jam in a clean container and refrigerate*. Eat within two weeks.

*This jam is meant for quick consumption and is not to be stored outside of the fridge, or for a long period of time. If you wish to omit the pectin powder, just continue to simmer the jam until it's thick. If you wish to preserve the jam for shelf, or long life holding, please follow canning instructions for your area (depends on high altitude) and from an approved source: either your local Extension office or here. If the jam shows any sign of spoilage (mold, acetone smell) please discard the jam immediately. Food safety is key: it's not worth sacrificing a couple of dollars or your family's health for. I will be doing a proper canning article later in the year. 





Monday, June 23, 2014

World Cup of Food!

Are you stuck to the television set? The World Cup is in full swing, and so far it's been an amazing display of soccer skills. Our team Orange is doing quite well, and is in the middle of their third game. Let's hope the boys make it to the finals!

In the meantime, all these countries have me curious about what they eat. For us, it's clear: Bitterballen are the perfect snack to enjoy during a game. But what about all these other peeps? Check out the World Cup of Food infographic (click here for recipes) that HyperHolidayMarket produced!

Have a great rest of the Cup! Hup Holland Hup!





Sunday, June 15, 2014

Broodje Gezond


What a busy summer! We're gardening, pulling weeds, and trying to watch the World Cup all at the same time. With all these activities, it's often too late to cook, or too hot, or I am just too busy. Perfect occasion for that all-time favorite cold sandwich; the broodje gezond ! It's apparent that we love our fruits and vegetables, whether we grow them ourselves or not. Apart from being the main focus of our hot meals (when Dutch kids ask what's for dinner, the answer will be whatever vegetable is served that night!), we also love to add them to our sandwiches. The Dutch love their bread, and two out of the three meals a day consists of those lovely carbs.

A real summer treat is fresh sliced aardbeien, strawberries, on buttered slices of white bread, with a sprinkling of sugar on top! My mom would have those ready for us when we came out of school, with a cup of tea. Another way to get your five-a-day is to slice some fresh cucumber, apple or banana on a peanut butter sandwich (with or without sambal), sliced radishes on rye bread with cream cheese, and pineapple on your tosti. Every family just about has their own favorite combinations!

One of the best ways to get your veggie sandwich in, is by ordering, or making your own, broodje gezond. This literally translates as "healthy roll" or "healthy sandwich", and is one of the most popular choices for a bite on-the-go. These lunch broodjes are often made with white or whole wheat rolls, and are filled with ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, boiled egg and cucumber slices. If you’re up for it, you can bake your own multigrain rolls, or get some tasty crunchy rolls from your bakery.

Best of all, these sandwiches are easy to make, are filling, and leave you with plenty of time to do other things: gardening, pulling weeds, watching the World Cup...

Broodje Gezond:

Slice a roll in half and butter both sides (leave the mayo for the fries, Dutch bread gets butter!).
Layer lettuce, tomato, cheese and/or ham, boiled egg and cucumber on the bottom roll.
Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the toppings if desired.
Cover with buttered top.
Bite. Chew. Marvel. Repeat :-).

Have a great summer!!!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Meergranenbroodjes

Bread plays an important role in Dutch food. Holland, or the Netherlands, is one of the largest bread consumers of Europe, purchasing about 120 lbs of this fantastic fare per year. Many a tourist, when stepping inside a Dutch bakery, grocery store or sandwich shop, is surprised by the large amount of bread varieties and toppings to choose from. But for a country where two out of three meals mainly consist of bread and bread toppings, the variety is not so much an option as a necessity. 

These two meals (usually breakfast and lunch, although some families will eat a warm lunch and consume their second bread meal at dinner time) will generally contain a variety of breads, with white and whole grain breads as the most common choices at the table. This is not by accident.....bread meals tend to consist of two servings: a slice of bread with a savory topping such as cheese or cold cuts is eaten first, the second serving usually consists of a sweet spread, and finishes the meal, so to say. Besides the standard sliced white or brown (i.e. whole wheat) loaf, a large selection of rolls, luxury breads and crispier options such as beschuit and knäckebröd is also available. 

The Dutch are well-known for their large variety of breads: all variations of wheat are represented, the whole gamut from white to whole wheat, rye, malt and sourdough. Ancient grains such as spelt and emmer have made a fabulous comeback. And not many countries have as many bread toppings as the Dutch do, ranging from sweet to savory and just about everything in between, which makes eating a bread meal interesting and tasty! Where else but in Holland can you put chocoladehagel, chocolate sprinkles, on your bread without anybody raising an eyebrow?!  

Beside white rolls and Dutch crunch, a popular roll is the multigrain roll, or the meergranenbroodjes. A favorite choice for weekend brunches, these rolls are usually eaten with savory toppings, such as cheese or ham. They are also a favorite for that other ubiquitous sandwich, the broodje gezond, the healthy sandwich. 

Meergranenbroodjes
2 tablespoons of barley malt syrup
1 ½ cup warm water
3 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup of bread flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 cup  rye flour
½ cup barley flour
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons flax seed
2 tablespoons rolled oats
2 teaspoon salt

Topping
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon rolled oats
2 tablespoons flax seed

Dissolve the two tablespoons of barley malt syrup in the warm water, and sprinkle the yeast on top to proof. While you wait, mix the different flours together with the seeds and the salt. When the yeast has proofed, stir it into the flour and mix until the dough comes together, then knead for a good five to six minutes to develop the gluten. Round the dough into a ball, rest in a greased bowl and cover. Allow to rise at room temperature until double its size, approximately 40 minutes.

Punch down the dough and roll back into a ball. Dust the counter with a little bit of flour and relax the dough, covered, for about ten minutes. In the meantime, put parchment paper or a silicone mat on a baking sheet, and mix the seeds for the topping. Place them in a shallow plate. Carefully roll the dough into a circle, about seven inches wide. Use a dough cutter or a sharp knife to divide the dough into 8 wedges, much like a pie. Brush the top of each wedge with a little bit of water, then dip the wet top into the seeds. Repeat with each wedge. Lay the rolls on the baking sheet, with enough space to expand. Cover and let rise for thirty minutes.

Heat the oven to 425F. Bake the rolls for 20 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 195F.

Makes 8 rolls.