Monday, November 29, 2010

Rode kool met appeltjes

Around this time of year, when you walk along the narrow streets of Holland, you are guaranteed to smell the lovely, spicey, clove and nutmeg riddled smells of hachee. And if you stand still and concentrate on the mixture of smells coming from any traditional Dutch kitchen, you might be able to detect a sweet and sour undertone, a bit cabbage-like, but not much. You'd be so right! Red cabbage, braised with apples, is THE vegetable to serve with hachee and boiled potatoes. It's a typical Dutch winter dish.

Americans usually don't care for fruit in their foods, but you may want to give this a try. The sweetness of the apple combines perfectly with the tanginess of the cabbage and the vinegar, and makes for a beautiful mix.
As with practically any food, the braised cabbage will taste even better the next day (if there's any left). I've found myself many times sneaking a forkful of refrigerated cabbage in the middle of the night. The slight crunch of the cabbage, the sweet and sour combination, the tenderness of the apples......

Rode kool met appeltjes
1 medium sized red cabbage
2 small apples
4 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
2 tablespoons of red wine or apple cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons of sugar

Peel the outer, tough leaves off the cabbage. Cut the cabbage in half, then each half in half again. This will give you an easy opportunity to cut out the core which is tough and bitter. Slice each quarter in thin strips (I prefer a chunkier strip). Rinse the cabbage and add to a Dutch oven. Pour in enough water to cover the cabbage and set it on the stove. Add the bay leaves, cloves and cinnamon stick, cover and bring to a slow boil. Stir in the wine or the vinegar, add the sugar, stir and cover again. Let it slowly braise on the back of the stove.

In the meantime, peel, core and quarter your apples. Add them to the cabbage, and slowly simmer for another thirty minutes, or until the cabbage is soft.

Taste, adjust with salt and pepper. If you like it sweeter or tangier, add a bit more sugar or vinegar.
Red cabbage also pairs very well with game: rabbit, hare, venison and elk.



Saturday, November 27, 2010

Arnhemse Meisjes

Arnhem is, no doubt, mostly known for its role during the Second World War. The movie "A Bridge Too Far" with some of the world's best actors (Sean Connery, Michael Cain, James Caan, Anthony Hopkins, Ryan O'Neal, Robert Redford, Elliot Gould, Gene Hackman) and directed by Richard Attenborough, chronicles the events around Operation Market Garden.

But even before the bridge, and the actors, and the movie and that horrible war, there was something else that was unique to Arnhem: its girls. Noooo, not those kind of girls. A light, sugary, flaky cookie called Arnhemse Meisjes, or Arnhem Girls. Maybe because the girls were sweet and eh....flaky? I don't know. I've never met anybody from Arnhem, to my knowledge, so I have no opinion on the matter.

Its cookies however....They became famous because Roald Dahl, the writer, once stopped in Arnhem on a book signing tour. While he signed away, he was offered coffee and a cookie. He kept eating and eating (thereby dispelling the terrible myth that the Dutch are so tight-fisted that they will only serve you one cookie and then hit the lid on the cookie jar), and fell in love with the cookie. When he was done (signing or eating, I'm not sure) he expressed his admiration for the cookie and said it was the best cookie in the world. Well! Either way, he obtained the recipe from the local baker and it was published in his book  "Roald Dahl's Cookbook".

Nowadays, there is only one official Arnhemse Meisjes baker: bakery Jurjus in Arnhem. These cookies stem from 1829 when baker Hagdorn was busy inventing new cookies that would do well at parties and festivities. One day, he made a cookie in the shape of a shoe sole, sugared it and baked it, and hey presto! the Arnhem Girls were born. The slightly flaky yeast dough pairs nicely with the sugary topping. It is an easy cookie to make and will delight many!

Arnhemse Meisjes
1 full cup of all-purpose flour (approx. 150gr)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of milk, warm (but not hot!)
1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast
4 drops of lemon juice
1 stick of butter, room temperature
Sugar

Mix the flour and the salt, stir the yeast in with the warm milk and let it sit for a couple of minutes so the yeast can be activated. Stir the milk and yeast into the flour, add the lemon juice and stir again. Now add the butter in small amounts while you knead/stir until everything comes together. Shape the dough into a sausage, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Take out the dough and divide it into equal pieces, little less than 1oz or 20 gr each. The recipe above should give you approximately 16 cookies. Roll each piece into a small ball. Pour several tablespoons of sugar on the counter and roll the dough balls through the sugar. Wrap and refrigerate. Turn on the oven to 350F.

Retrieve the sugary dough balls from the fridge. Place a dough ball on top of the sugary counter and use a rolling pin to roll each ball into an oval shape, about 3 inches long. Turn it over and press the cookie into the sugar, making sure that both sides are well covered. Place each cookie on a silicone mat or parchment paper on a baking sheet. When all cookies are made, sprinkle the remaining sugar over the cookies and bake them golden in approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

The cookies will puff up, the sugar will caramelize and you will have a wonderful and unique cookie to serve with coffee.



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Schoenlapperstaart

De Verstandige Kock’ ("The Sensible Cook") was first published in 1667 in Amsterdam. A rather thin cookbook, it contained recipes for the average citizen, not wealthy but not overly poor either. Its last print was from 1802. For those that do not read Dutch, there is help as the book was translated by Peter Rose in 1998. It contains a myriad of recipes and historical facts about the way the Dutch cooked and how it impacted the Dutch settlements in the Hudson Valley.

I've copied below the original text that belongs to the recipe I made today, a centuries old but still popular dish in the Netherlands.

"Om een schoenmakerstaert te backen: Neemt suere Appels, schildtse, aen stucken gesneden en gaar gekoockt, wrijft die kleyn, neemt dan boter, Suycker, en Corenten, yder na zijn believen, en dat samen met 4 à 5 eyeren daer in gheroert, neemt dan geraspt Tarwenbroot, en doet dat onder in een schootel, daer op u Appelen geleght, doeter weer geraspt Tarwenbroot boven over, en deckt dan toe met een decksel van een Taertpanne, en vuur daer op gheleght, maeckt een goede korste."

(To bake a cobbler's pie: take sour apples, peel them, cut them in pieces and boil them until soft, mash them, take butter, sugar and raisins as much as you please, and mix this with 4 or five eggs, take shredded wheat bread, and put it on the bottom of a dish, put the apples on top, cover it again with shredded wheat bread and cover it with the lid of a pie dish, on which you place coals, makes a good crust).

I guess punctuation was not that big of a deal in the Middle Ages. Nowadays, we use rusks (beschuiten) or in my case, panko, the japanese variant of breadcrumbs, instead of "shredded wheat bread". I much prefer panko for sweet dishes like these, as it's lighter, a little sweeter and is closest to the rusk crumb. To this dish you can add raisins if you wish, or a pinch of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom....it's a great dish to experiment with. For those that don't want the sugar, the pie holds its own made with a sugar-substitute as well.

Now, why is it called a cobbler's pie? Many have ventured a guess, but nobody so far has been able to give a valid explanation. But it's a wonderful, light dish to finish a meal with, or to accompany a hot cup of coffee or tea, mid-morning. And maybe that's something a hard working cobbler can appreciate as well.

Schoenlapperstaart
4 small apples
1/2 cup of water
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
3 eggs, separated
1 cup panko or breadcrumbs

Peel, core and cut the apples in small pieces. Place them in a saucepan with the water, the butter, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a boil, stir well, then simmer until the apples are done and you can mash it into apple sauce.

Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Mix the egg yolks and the panko with the apple mixture, then carefully spoon the egg whites through the mix. Don't overmix it, as you want to keep the air in the egg whites!

Grease a pie pan, heat the oven to 350F, carefully pour the apple batter into the dish, and bake for about 50 minutes. Cool, dust with powdered sugar (if you like) and cut into large slices.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Griesmeelpudding met bessensaus

Every now and then I come across a recipe in my Dutch cookbooks that surprises me once I try it. A traditional dessert called "griesmeelpudding" (grits pudding) sounded old-fashioned even when I was a little girl. My grandma never even made it, that's how old fashioned it was, imagine that!

My mom doesn't care for dairy so our milky desserts were few and far between. Come to think of it, we never ate much dessert, as neither my mom nor my grandma cared for sweets. I guess I've made up for both :-)

Anyway, "griesmeelpudding" did not sound appetizing, partly because of its perceived high "last century" factor, partly because the name "gries" (grits) forms also, phonetically, the first syllable for the verb "griezelen", i.e. shudder in horror ( a "griezelfilm" is a horror movie). Kids would often refer to the pudding as "griezelpudding" and would not eat it. No wonder!

But in my quest to cover the traditional Dutch kitchen, I cannot circumvent something so typically Dutch. And after deliberately cooking and baking twenty other things, I've finally come full circle and decided to tackle the griesmeelpudding. And I am SO glad I did!!

There is something inheritently comforting in the smell of warm milk with sugar. I don't know if it's because my grandma would make "lammetjespap" for me every so often and it reminds me of being a child, or whether it's a nurturing thing. No clue. But when I stand over the stove, warming up milk and stirring sweet sugar into it, I get this homey, warm, fuzzy feeling, perfect for these cold days.

The "griesmeelpudding" is very similar to rice pudding, as we know it here in the United States, but the berry sauce most definitely adds a characteristic and flavorful angle to it.

Griesmeelpudding
For the pudding:
1 cup of grits
4 cups of milk
3/4 cup of sugar
1 slice of lemon peel, no pith
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

For the sauce:
1 can of cranberry-raspberry sauce (or a small jar of berry jam)
1 cup of apple juice
1/2 cinnamon stick

Bring the milk to a slow boil, add the lemon peel and the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add in the grits, bring back to a boil but keep stirring to prevent the milk from burning. Lower the heat and cook for about six to seven minutes or until the grits are gorged, but stir every so often to make sure the bottom doesn't burn. Stir in the vanilla.

Rinse the pudding form with cold water and, after removing the lemon peel, pour the grits into the form. Set it in the fridge to cool. It will take a good five hour to set: even better if you can leave it overnight.

When you're ready to serve dessert, add the contents of the cranberry sauce or the berry jam to a small saucepan, add the apple juice or water to thin the sauce and the cinnamon stick. Stir well, bring to a boil, then simmer for a good twenty minutes. Thicken with cornstarch if needed. I decided to put my sauce through a sieve in order to remove all the raspberry seeds, but that's purely a personal preference.

Pour some warm water over the outside of the pudding form, lightly loosen the sides of the pudding and invert the whole thing onto a plate. Pour the thick berry sauce on top and on the sides, and enjoy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hallee, it's hachee day!

Hachee (hash-ay) is one of those old-fashioned dishes that pops up on the table the moment the temperature outside drops to "colder than dirt". Looking out the window and seeing snow, I knew it was time for a good old "stick to your ribs" kind of meal, and hachee is just the ticket!

November 15 is National Hachee Day in the Netherlands. The stewed beef dish has been around since the Middle Ages, where its main function was to use up all the pieces of meat that needed to be used up, combined with a bunch of onions, some leftover red wine and set to simmer on the back of the stove. It's such an easy and yet grateful dish to make, and a favorite of the Dutch. Cubes of beef, stewed in a sauce flavored with onions, bay leaf, vinegar, juniper berries and pepper corns, pair perfectly with creamy mashed potatoes and red cabbage or, if you're in the mood, try the stew over a plate of golden fries....patat stoofvlees is a favorite snack!

This is a great dish to prepare in a Crock-Pot. Throw everything together in the morning, turn it on low and go on your merry way: when you come home, dinner will be ready! For this dish, I tend to use chuck pot roast, or a bottom round or rump roast: it's a cheaper cut of meat that will benefit greatly from this cooking method.

Hachee
2 lbs of beef, cubed
1 tablespoon of butter
3 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon of flour
1/2 beef bouillon cube, or homemade beef bouillon
4 cups of water
3 bay leaves
3 cloves, whole
4 juniper berries (optional)
8 pepper corns
3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or red wine
Salt
Pepper

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and quickly brown the cubed beef. Add the onions and stir in with the beef until the onions are translucent. Sprinkle the flour over the beef, crumble the bouillon cube and add with four coups of water to the pan. The meat has to be almost submerged. Add the bay leaves, cloves (I stick them in a piece of onion so I can find them again), juniper berries if you want and the pepper corns, then stir in the vinegar or the wine. Bring to a slow boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for a good two hours.

Try a little piece of meat to see if it's tender to your liking. Remove the meat onto a plate, adjust the sauce with salt and pepper or a little vinegar if you like it more tangy and reduce slightly. Add the meat back in, stir to cover, and serve with mashed potatoes and red cabbage, or over a plate of rice.


To make it really Dutch, don't forget the "kuiltje" (pothole)
in your mashed potatoes for the gravy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jodenkoeken

The Dutch have a huge cookie culture. The shelves in the grocery store are loaded with sugary breads, cookies, tarts and every other product that can be eaten with a cup of coffee or tea. It is said that the Dutch will only offer you one cookie with your hot beverage, as they are so tight-fisted, but I have yet to experience that. Most hosts just leave the cookie jar on the table and invite you to help yourself.

A traditional Jodenkoeken cookie can.
Beside the coloring, flavors and shapes of the cookies, the most memorable are without a doubt their names: bokkepootjes (billygoat's legs), kletskop (bald head or chatterbox), Weesper moppen (blobs from Weesp), Arnhemse meisjes (girls from Arnhem), ijzerkoekjes (iron cookies), lange vingers (long fingers) or kattetongen (cat tongues). Another cookie with a huge following is the so-called "jodekoek" or Jewish cookies.

The story goes that Davelaar, a cookie baker, bought a bakery from a retiring Jewish baker in the early 1920. The bakery was famous for these large, sweet and buttery cookies and Davelaar continued to bake them, selling them in metal cookie cans and charging a deposit. During the seventies, the name of the cookie was considered not-politically-correct and Davelaar changed it for the export cookies, but never did for the national market. To this day it's called "Jodekoek" or Jewish cookie.

The size of the cookie is most remarkable, it measures a whopping 3.5 inches across. Not very impressive for an American cookie, but most certainly for a Dutch one. The ingredients are few but come together wonderfully as a sandy, buttery cookie: do make sure you use top quality ingredients.

Jodekoek
1 stick of butter, room temperature
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 cup of self-rising flour, packed

Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the milk, the cinnamon and the sugar. Knead the flour into the mix, blending all the ingredients. Wrap in foil and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Dust the counter with flour and roll the dough thin, about 1/4th of an inch or less. Cut out the cookies with the help of a canning ring for widemouth jars, it's the right size. Place the cookies on parchment paper on a sheet pan and bake for approximately 15 minutes until golden brown. The last few minutes you may want to keep an eye on the cookies as they "over-brown" rather quickly.

Enjoy with a cup of hot tea, coffee or hot chocolate.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hete Bliksem

 In this quest to investigate, research and write about the culinary traditions of my country, I stumble across some very interesting details. For one, I think there is nary a thing a Dutch person wouldn't add to a dish of mashed potatoes: we have mashed potatoes with carrots (hutspot), mashed potatoes with kale (boerenkool), mashed potatoes with sauerkraut, a whole array of mashed potatoes with greens and today I am making mashed potatoes with apple.

Boerenkool
The potato was first introduced in the Netherlands in the early 1600's but was not officially recognized as fit for human consumption until 1727. Since then, the country has been producing a large variety of potatoes such as Eigenheimers, Bintjes, Alphas, Irenes, Gelderse muisjes. As with other agricultural products, Holland is one of the market leaders regarding the export on potatoes.

The traditional meal in Holland consists of the Dutch trinity: meat, vegetables and spuds. Most traditionally boiled, potatoes can also be served fried or mashed. One of my favorites are pan-fried potatoes: boil some extra potatoes the day before, chill them, then slice the next day and fry in some butter in a skillet until they are golden brown and crispy. Yum!

Hete Bliksem
Today's dish is called "hete bliksem" or hot lightning. Not entirely sure what generated the name. Some say it's because the high amount of liquid in the mash: the dish stays hot longer than other types of mashed potatoes. That is true, there is no additional milk needed to mash these potatoes and apples into a smooth consistency and it does stay warm longer. Other names for this savory and sweet potato dish are "heaven and earth" referring to the source of apples (heaven) and potatoes (earth), or "thunder and lightning".

The key is to use a mixture of sweet and tart apples, 2 parts potato, 1 part apple. Jonagolds, Braeburns and Jonathans will do well by themselves as they possess both flavors.

Hete Bliksem
8 large potatoes
4 apples (2 sweet, 2 tart)
4 slices of salted pork

Peel and cube the potatoes and place them in a pan with just enough water to cover them. Peel and core the apples, cut in halves and place on top of the potatoes, top with the slices of salt pork. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer for twenty minutes or until potatoes are done. Remove the pork, pour off the water (save some) and mash the apples and potatoes to your liking, lumpy or smooth. If it's too dry, add a tablespoon at a time of the cooking liquid. Taste. Adjust with salt and pepper if needed.

Slice the pork in narrow strips, mix in with the mashed potatoes and serve. Good with a lick of mustard.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pasteitje met ragout

As Calvinistic as we are, bent on not having too much of anything and claiming that "being normal is crazy enough", we are set on extending the Christmas celebrations over two days instead of one. First Christmas Day is December 25th, Second Christmas Day is December 26th. And if you are part of those families that also celebrate Christmas Eve, that makes it two days and a half.

Christmas Eve is traditionally the night where you dress up, go to evening mass (even those that are not raised in the church will often attend) and upon return to the house round off the celebrations with hot chocolate and, how else, a bread meal with luxury rolls.

First Christmas Day is a formal dinner day and a day that is generally celebrated with family only. If you are invited to someone's home on First Christmas Day, and you are not family or in any way related, it is quite an honor! This is also the day that will determine where you stand, family-wise. In trying to keep the peace between families and in-laws, children often switch back and forth between families on 1st and 2nd Christmas Day: one year you will celebrate dinner at your parent's on the 1st, the next year it's at your significant other's parents. Being invited, or visited, on 2nd Christmas Day almost automatically classifies you as 2nd class family member......

Second Christmas Day is much less formal. It's when the leftovers are eaten, and everybody runs around in their "house suit", sweats and jammies, hanging in front of the TV or going for long, wintery walks to get some fresh air. Friends will sometimes come over for a drink and a chat, and a less formal dinner (not leftovers!!).

So many of these traditions are slowly changing but one of the standard items on Christmas Day is this appetizer or starter for the meal: a puff pastry cup filled with a chicken and mushroom gravy. It is so seventies, but it is one of those dishes that is comforting, filling and familiar at the same time.

I had some chicken leftover from last night's dinner club. It's getting close to Christmas and all of a sudden I had a hankering for a pasteitje met ragout.......You can also use leftover chicken from your Sunday roast. 

Pasteitjes, puff pastry shells, can be found in the store, in the freezer section. If you can't find them, make your own shells out of a sheet of puff pastry, or serve the ragout with rice or on bread.  

Pasteitje met ragout
For the pasteitjes:
2 sheets of puff pastry
1 tablespoon of flour
1 egg, beaten

Dust the counter with flour and thaw the sheets. Cut eight circles out of the pastry dough. Out of four of these circles, press a smaller circle from the middle. Wet the full circles with a little bit of water, place the rings on top and brush the whole pastry with egg. Place the cut outs on the side, poke them a couple of times with a fork so they don't puff up too much, and brush as well.

Bake on a sheetpan in a 425F oven for ten to twelve minutes or until golden and puffy. Cool on a wire rack.

Ragout
1 tablespoon of butter
2 chicken breast
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 small can of mushrooms (or one cup of fresh mushrooms, sliced)
2 1/2 cups of white wine
2 1/2 cup of warm water
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 bay leaves
Sprinkle of thyme

For the gravy
1/3 cup of flour
4 tablespoons of butter

If you have time, marinate the chicken breast the night before in a bowl with the wine, water, onions, bay leaves, thyme and crushed garlic cloves. 

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven, add the sliced onion and the garlic cloves and sauté until translucent. Dry the chicken, cut it into large cubes, season it with salt and pepper and quickly sear it on all sides.Add the wine, the warm water, the bouillon cube and the mushrooms and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, add the bay leaves, a sprinkle of thyme and pepper and simmer for at least 25 minutes, covered.

Take the chicken out of the stock. The meat should be tender enough that you can pull it apart with two forks. If not, return to the pan and simmer longer.

In a different pan, melt the butter, stir in the flour and quickly make a paste. Add a ladle full of your cooking liquid to the sauce and stir until it's absorbed. Do the same with four more ladles, until you have a nice pan full of gravy. Now add the meat to the gravy. Taste and adjust the flavor with salt and pepper if needed.

Carefully place the pasteitjes on a plate, fill with ragout, sprinkle with some parsley if you want and serve!


Honingkoek

Breakfast is always a treat in Holland. The amount of cold cuts is amazing, the cheese is fabulous and the large variety of breads always makes it difficult to choose from. If you're not in the mood for bread, you can pick a Dutch rusk, beschuit, a cracker or a large slice of Dutch "breakfast cake" or ontbijtkoek.

Ontbijtkoek is a cake-like quick bread, soft, sweet and with a variety of spices and flavors. The enticing mix of cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg is the basis for a large variety of different breads: ontbijtkoek is also known as peperkoek if it also contains a snuff of white pepper, honingkoek if it has an additional amount of honey, gemberkoek if the cake is studded with candied ginger or kandijkoek when the top of the cake is covered in sugary pearls.

Not all ontbijtkoeken are solely consumed for breakfast.  The koek can be sliced and eaten by itself, dry, or improved with a dab of real butter as a snack, or with a cup of coffee. Children will often get a slice to hold them over until dinner, and a popular game at birthdays and national celebrations is "koekhappen", cake nipping. Thick slices of ontbijtkoek are individually suspended on a larger rope, so that they dangle right above the heads of the, sometimes blindfolded, children. Adults on either side of the rope will lower the koek until right above the children's heads who, in order to get a bite out of the cake, have to jump up and nip at the delicacy. First one to finish the koek is declared the winner! The Dutch company Peijnenburg, famous for its koeken, uses koekhappen in most of their commercials: this one is still my favorite!

This morning I was in the mood for honingkoek. It's an easy cake to bake, it fills the house with lovely smells and it's a perfect afternoon snack for later. If you have all the ingredients, this cake can be on your breakfast table in the time it takes you to get the newspaper, make a pot of coffee and toast the bread.

This recipe is for an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan: double the recipe and you'll be able to bake two (save one in the freezer for later!), or bake a larger koek in a 9 x 5 loaf pan. If you do, stick to one egg, and increase your baking time to 50 minutes.

Honingkoek
2 cups of self-rising flour (250gr)
1/2 cup of brown sugar (75 gr)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground aniseed (optional)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup of honey (75 gr)
1 cup of milk (120 ml)
1 egg

Grease an 8 x 4 cake pan. Preheat oven to 350F. Add all the dry ingredients to a bowl and mix together. Set the mixer on low and add the wet ingredients, one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice. Mix until you have a smooth batter, approx. 2 minutes. Pour the batter into the pan, bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the ontbijtkoek cool on a wire rack, then slice and serve with butter. Best saved in a plastic bag at room temperature, will keep for several days.