Sunday, May 24, 2015

Rabarbervla

We tend to think of rabarber, rhubarb, as a typical Dutch vegetable. Many of us remember the ubiquitous rhubarb plant in the moestuin, the garden, of our grandparents. Some of us chewed on a stalk or two when thirsty, others stayed away from it as far as possible. And not without reason: the astringency of rhubarb is enough to make your face pucker!

Rhubarb made it to the Netherlands in the early 1700's - not the stalks, but the root of the rheum rhabarbarum was popular at the time: it had laxative properties for those in need of such medicine and was much desired by merchants and apothecaries alike. Het Nederlands Magazijn, a popular publication in the 1900th century, discusses both Chinese and Russian rhubarb, and mentions several other varieties. In the Netherlands, once rhubarb was introduced, through the English, who already mention recipes with rhubarb stalks in the mid to late 1800's.

However, the Dutch did not embrace this plant until the late, late 1900s. Although recipes are still limited to sweet concoctions such as rabarbermoes, rabarbersiroop, rabarbercake and rabarbervlaai, the country is slowly but surely tapping into the many possibilities of this versatile tangy, oxalic-acid rich vegetable. The people at the famous Historische Groentenhof, the historical vegetable courtyard, are returning Dutch heirloom rhubarb varieties from elsewhere, with names as Donkere Bloedrode, Scheemdermeer, Amersfoorter Roem and Zwolse Rode.

Restaurants in the country are getting ready to celebrate their second annual Dutch Rhubarb Week, from the 18th through the 28th of June. And these chefs are not just cooking pastries and pies with it, but branch out into every aspect of their culinary experience: rubs, marinades, soups and even a rhubarb liqueur is on the menu!

As for us here at The Dutch Table, we're making one of our most favorite summer desserts: rabarbervla, or rhubarb pudding. It's a tangy, sweet, creamy type of pudding that is easy to make, and is very refreshing! We don't add sugar to the rhubarb until after the warm sauce is made and cooled off: this way it takes less sugar to sweeten it.

Rabarbervla
1 lb rhubarb, washed and diced (approx. 4 cups)
1/2 cup water
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
Optional: strawberries*

Put the diced rhubarb on the stove with the 1/2 cup of water, and simmer slowly, for about fifteen minutes, or until the pieces are soft and falling apart. Mash them with a fork until all the lumps are gone. In a separate bowl, stir the two egg yolks with the corn starch. Add a tablespoon of hot rhubarb sauce to the eggs and stir until the rhubarb is incorporated. Do this two or three more times: you are tempering the eggs to the temperature of the rhubarb, so that when you stir in the egg yolks you don't end up with scrambled eggs! Now, stir the egg yolk mixture into the remaining sauce in the pan and stir, on medium heat, for a minute or two until the mixture thickens. When you are able to trace a line on the bottom of the pan and the sauce does not immediately fill in the void, it's done. Set aside and cool.

When the sauce is sufficiently cooled, stir in the 1/4 cup of sugar. Taste. If it's too tangy, add a little bit more, but not too much, as the whipped cream is also sweetened.

Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form, adding two tablespoons of sugar** at the end. Save about half a cup, and fold the rest into the cold rhubarb. Sometimes, the acidity of the rhubarb will cause the whipped cream to curdle: you'll see small dots of white in the sauce. If this happens, don't panic: take a stick blender to the sauce and the lumps will disappear.

Pour the vla in four chilled cups, add a dollop of whipped cream on top and garnish with a strawberry or a lange vinger






** You are welcome to add up to half a cup of chopped strawberries to the sauce: it will make it sweeter and more red.

*You can also use sweetener or vanilla sugar, if you'd like.




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!