Sunday, April 13, 2014

We are seen here, here and here....but not here!

The annual Saveur Best Food Blog Awards came and went, and I'm sad to say that we've gone another year without even a single mention! Well, sad....not really. I would love to see more exposure to our national cuisine, with all its history, quirks, oddities and influences. But I am not a super duper food photographer, I'm not an exceptional food writer, and I lack the technical skills to turn the website into an amazingly designed online miracle.

But that's really not what it's all about, is it? If I can write the recipe down, show you how it's made and what it's supposed to look like when it shows up at the table, and give you a bit of history as to why or how we cook certain dishes, we're doing pretty good! I hope it encourages you to try and make some things yourself, perhaps reminisce a bit with some of the stories, and trust that you will share this with your children, your family and a good friend or two.

- In the meantime, I am tickled pink to see that The Dutch Table's recipes and photographs showed up on the I Am Expat website, in Benjamin Gartska's article about Dutch Easter Brunch.

- Also, the news section of the website for Dutchies, a restaurant in Hermanus, South Africa, was so kind as to publish some of our pictures.

- And I loved seeing our Dutch mustard soup on the BuzzFeed's list of 15 Deliciously Spicy Dishes From Around The World!

This is what makes me happy! Real people, real interests: and as time progresses I'll continue to capture our food history online: with recipes, pictures and anecdotes. I've been doing this for four years, and I have at least four more years of material, and that's just off the top of my head.

If you don't see a weekly post, don't worry. I've been updating some of the older posts, getting some new pictures in there and re-testing and adjusting some of the older recipes. It's a labor of love, and a live project. The latest updates were Mokkataart en Honingkoek. If you join us on Facebook, on The Dutch Table's page, you'll be kept informed of all updates.

Thank you all for your kind messages, for your support and for keeping our culinary culture alive!

Nicole


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Zalmtaart

Last Friday, March 14th, was Pi Day. I usually pay little attention to all these "Today-is-Fill-In-The-Blank-With-A-Food-Name-" days. Should not every day be pie day?!  So, initially I had not planned to write about this mathematical merriment, until I realized there was a Dutch connection. If the pie part did not catch my attention, the Dutch link surely did. Read on!
  
So, the first calculation of  π was carried out by the Greek mathematician Archimedes somewhere around 250 BC, who determined it to be 3 and a little bit after the comma, more accurately speaking "less than 3 1/7 but greater than 3 10/71". Over the next several centuries, other digit crunchers added more numbers to his initial calculation. 

The big breakthrough happened in 1600, when Ludolph van Ceulen calculated the first 35 digits of  π. This mathematician and fencing instructor, a German-born Dutchman, spent most of his life calculating the numerical value of the number pi, and even having it named after him (Ludolphian number), and writing papers and books about it. His amazing 35-digit approximation to pi is even engraved on his tombstone in Leiden. 

How interesting is that! Not having enough to do with calculating numbers, raising kids and teaching fencing, Van Ceulen also spent time posing problems and solutions to other mathematicians. One of these challenged peers was called Goudaen (meaning from the city of Gouda), of which you can read more here.  

So while I was trying to figure out who this Goudaen is, I was distracted by something else. It appears that the city of Gouda happens to house the oldest herberg, or inn, known in the northern provinces of the Netherlands. The hotel is called De Zalm (The Salmon). It was established in 1522 and back then was called De Ouden Salm. It had a gilded salmon on the top of its roof that blew off during a storm but that has been restored to its former glory since.

Never mind the salmon....how did we even know about salmon in the 16th century? Salmon is one of the few fish that was traditionally eaten canned and not fresh, so imagine my surprise when I learned that Kralingseveer, by Rotterdam, housed the busiest and largest salmon auction during the 1800s and 19th century. Apparently, our rivers were riddled with salmon during that time! Who knew?! After the industrialization, the rivers in the Netherlands became too polluted and the salmon pretty much disappeared, which was around 1890. The fish auction at the Kralingseveer was finally demolished in 1932 because there was no more salmon to auction off. Sad, sad, sad state of affairs.

So in honor of Pi day and as a tip of the hat to Ludolph van Ceulen I celebrated Pi day with a warm, fishy salmon pie for lunch. This dish used to be an easy-to-make, safe standby for many long study nights during my college years, but has practically disappeared from the culinary scene. Which is a shame really, it's worth a shot! Some people add pineapple and corn, but I prefer this rather simple approach. 

Zalmtaart is also good eaten cold for lunch, with a glass of cold milk.  

Zalmtaart
1 can of pink or red salmon (14.75 ounces)
1 Boursin garlic and fresh herbs (5.2 oz)
1 small shallot
1 tablespoon of bread crumbs
3 tablespoons red and green pepper dice (or small can of Southwestern corn)
3 eggs
1 sheet puff pastry
Fresh parsley

Drain the salmon and break the meat into big pieces, picking out the skin and bones. Beat eggs with half of the cheese. Chop the shallot and fold into the eggs. Roll the thawed puff pastry out in 9 inch pie form, poke holes in pastry with a fork, and cover with 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs or panko. Distribute the salmon chunks over the bottom, and pour eggs on top. Break the rest of the cheese over the egg. Lastly sprinkle the bell peppers on top, or the drained corn if you're using it.

Heat the oven to 400F and bake the salmon pie in 20 minutes until done (the egg will be solid). You may finish it under the broiler to add some color to the top. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley just before serving. 

Makes 8 slices. 



Monday, March 3, 2014

It's that time of the year again!




Every year we try to get the word out about good, traditional, yummie Dutch food. Our cuisine is not too well known, mainly because we're so humble about it, partly because it's just not very Dutch to insanely brag about something so common and ordinary. It's just food, people! seems to be the common attitude.

But we tend to forget that our food is really, really good! We have some of the most plentiful, healthy, nutritious and affordable foods, and even Oxfam's report was bragging about us earlier this year. So why not do the same? Let go of some of that Calvinistic "act normal, that's crazy enough" attitude and shout it, clad in orange, from the rooftops:

"I LOVE Dutch food! Give me bitterballen, give me hope, let me never go without my stroop!"

Or you could just nominate us for this year's Saveur Best Food Blog Award and spare yourself getting strange looks from the neighbors. That's okay, too :-)

Click here: Saveur Best Food Blog Award to nominate The Dutch Table. When asked, the URL is www.thedutchtable.com.

Many thanks!!
Nicole

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Joodse Boterkoek

Boterkoek, butter cake, is a traditional Dutch delicacy. The Belgians do not have anything similar to it, nor do the Germans. The French have a Breton butter cake, but that's a completely different animal. Nope, the boterkoek is most definitely Dutch, with its crunchy sides and soft, tender heart.

It's definitely not for the faint of heart, or the dainty eaters, nor for the more refined consumer. Boterkoek, since its early appearance in the thirtiesappears to be a confection for the common people. It was not sold in the higher-end patisseries or bakeries in town, nor could it be found in the tea rooms of the upper classes. Even the traditional boterkoek baking pans, the shallow tart pans with the built-in slider, were not stocked in the higher-end specialty stores, according to Johannes van Dam, the famous Dutch food writer, but could easily be found in more eh...general stores like Blokker and Hema.

But in the homes of the hard workers, the farmers, the fishermen, the harbor workers and other physically challenging jobs, a small square of boterkoek was well received, together with a cup of strong coffee to cut through some of the greasy goodness. Made with (good) butter, i.e. not margarine, sugar and flour, the butter cake is probably one of the easiest cakes to make, and probably one of the first ones that kids learn to make at home.

Somehow there is a Jewish connection with boterkoek, as it was traditionally served on Shabbat in Dutch Jewish homes. Claudia Roden includes a recipe for Joodse Boterkoek in her book "The Book of Jewish Food", where she mentions that  the boterkoek is part of "a few dishes, seen as Jewish but presenting a distinctive Dutch character."  The Dutch Joodse boterkoek, Jewish butter cake, is per definition made with candied ginger.

Joodse Boterkoek
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 egg
1/2 cup of candied ginger

1 egg for brushing

Mix the butter with the sugar until it comes together, then add the flour. Chop the ginger into small strips and add 3/4 of the amount to the dough. When the flour has been absorbed, add in the egg, mix it a few more times until it appears to be a cohesive dough.

Butter a square or round baking pan (9 inches) and place a bottom of parchment paper in there. Pat the dough into the pan, refrigerate it for 10 minutes, then brush it with the beaten egg and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 of ginger on top. Bake in an 350F oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until the sides start browning.

Remove from the oven, and let cool down completely before removing the cake from the pan. Cut into small squares. Serve at room temperature with some good coffee.



Monday, February 17, 2014

Wentelteefjes

It's a holiday today, so hopefully you got to sleep in a bit, lounge around the house for a while and get some much needed things done. Good for you! It's not until you get ready to fix breakfast that you realize somebody left the bag with bread out on the counter all night, and now all the slices have gone stale. Ugh...but not to worry! Remember those delectable slices of fried bread your oma or mama used to make? Today is a perfect day to indulge!

These slices of stale bread, dipped in egg and milk and then fried golden in butter, are a staple of practically any country that has sliced bread on the menu. Whether you call it French toast, pain perdu, torrijas or wentelteefjes, it all comes down to the same thing: proud housemothers (or fathers) using up the food they have and making a worthy dish out of it!

The word "wentelteefje" always generates a big smile from the adults and a snicker from the kids. The word itself could be considered an insult ("teef" is Dutch for female dog and therefore also used to describe less than pleasant women), and to "wentelen" means to turn over. So "wentelteefje" literally means "turnover little b*tch", pardon my English.

But how did this name come about? Did people run around the kitchens yelling insults at the maids to flip the bread? No, of course not. The generally assumed thought is that the name came from "wentel het even", turn it over for a minute (loosely translated) which might not be correct, after all, according to this article by Ewoud Sanders in the NRC newspaper. Regional variations of the name wentelteefje include draaireuen (rotating studs) and gebakken hondsvotjes (baked dogs butts), of which the latter one sends me into fits of giggles and is making me seriously contemplate telling my non-Dutch family that this is the correct name. I know, I know! It's not right. I promise I won't.

The best thing about wentelteefjes is the combination of ease of preparation and the big smiles you get when you set the platter on the table, stacked high with golden slices of yummie goodness.

Wentelteefjes
8 slices of stale bread
3 eggs
1 cup of milk
Butter
Sugar
Cinnamon

Whip the eggs with the milk well. Heat a skillet on the stove with a tablespoon of butter, dip the bread slices briefly into the eggy milk on both sides, and fry them in the pan. Turn them over to fry on the other side, and keep them warm on a platter until you're done.

Sprinkle with powdered or regular sugar and plenty of cinnamon!