Friday, April 29, 2011

Koninginnesoep


Happy Birthday, Queen Beatrix!!
(Courtesy of eo.nl)
Hip Hip Hurray, it's the Queen's birthday! The whole country is going nuts on April 30th: huge yard sales everywhere (yard- or garage sales are not a common occurence in Holland), open air concerts, food fairs....everybody will be in a festive mood today. To show your support, either for the Royal family or just for partying in general, wear something orange. A wig, a shirt......it's all good. Eat some orange cake, have an orange beer.....and enjoy Queen's Day.

Queen's Day started officially on August 31st, 1890 to celebrate the birthday of the then Queen of the Netherlands, Wilhelmina, and was a yearly festivity until 1948 when her daughter, Juliana, took over the reigns. Juliana was born on April 30th, so Queen's Day moved to early Spring. By the time Beatrix, daughter of Juliana and current Queen of the Netherlands became Head of State in 1980, it was such a tradition to have all the outside activities, that she didn't have the heart to move Queen's Day to her day of birth, January 31st. Which is just as well. The weather cannot be guaranteed to be sunny and pleasant at the end of April, but it's bound to be a heck of a lot better than on January 31st! Beatrix kept April 30th as the date for this colorful national celebration.

Traditionally, the Queen visits one or two locations in the country where she's greeted by the local authorities, given a tour and has the opportunity to show, perhaps feigned, interest in the local sights. Noblesse oblige. This year, she is visiting the two towns of Thorn and Weert in the province of Limburg. Smart move! They'll probably fete her with a nice slice of Limburg vlaai......

There is no food directly related to Queen's Day. Yes, the icing on the cakes will be orange. The tompoezen will have changed their pink icing to sunny orange, there will be orange beer, orange desserts, and many other orange food items. I may even give those orange tompoezen a go tomorrow, I'm always game for dessert.

However, there is one item that holds it own today: Koninginnesoep. A fairly late comer to the Dutch kitchen, a recipe for Queen's Soup appeared for the first time around the 1900's and has been a steady regular at celebratory events. It's a creamy, chicken-stock based soup that will please everybody in your family, and is easy and quick to make. Which is a good thing, today is after all a holiday!

Koninginnesoep
6 cups of seasoned chicken stock
2 cups of whole milk or half-and-half
1/2 cup of peas
1/2 cup of diced carrots
2 cups of cooked chicken meat, diced
1 tablespoon of ground almonds

Warm the stock, add the vegetables and boil until they're tender. Whisk in the milk and bring back up to temperature, but don't boil anymore, the milk might curdle. Stir in the chicken and the almonds, let the soup simmer for another five minutes, then taste and adjust if needed.

Serve royally!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Paastaart

Holland celebrates Easter in a similar way as it does Christmas, with two days. In the case of Easter, First Easter Day is always on Sunday, Second Easter Day is on the Monday following and is often a holiday.

The gathering of family and friends around the breakfast, lunch or dinner table is key on First Easter Day. Stores are closed, children are dressed in their "Paasbest" (Easter Best) with new clothes and shoes. Eggs are colored, hidden and if lucky, all found. If it's not celebrated with an extensive brunch with rolls like paashaasjes, bread toppings, a couple of warm egg dishes and large amounts of coffee, the family will get together for a late lunch or early dinner. Lamb is a traditional dish served for Easter.

Friends and family will also spend time enjoying each other's company over a cup or two of coffee or tea, and with that ofcourse comes something sweet: a Paastaart, or Easter cake. Decorated with fluffy whipped cream, a light biscuit batter and an adult amount of advocaat, this Easter cake will put a smile on your face.

Paastaart
4 eggs
3/4 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of flour
1/4 cup of corn starch
1.5 cups of heavy whipped cream
4 tablespoons of powdered sugar
yellow food coloring
chocolate easter eggs
1/2 cup of chocolate hail
1 cup of advocaat

Beat the four eggs with the sugar until foamy. The batter should drip off the whisk in a broad, thick ribbon. Preheat the oven to 320F. Butter and flour an 8' spring form. Sift the flour and the cornstarch together and then carefully fold into the batter: do this carefully as you don't want to loose all the air.

Place the form into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes. Do not open the door of the oven the first twenty minutes as the cake will deflate.

In the meantime, beat the whipped cream and add three or four drops of yellow food coloring to it. Remove the cake from the oven, let it cool and remove it from the form. Split the cake in half lengthwise and spread 1/2 a cup of advocaat on the bottom half. Replace the upper part. Spread the whipped cream on the side of the cake and generously on the top.

Use the chocolate sprinkles to decorate the sides of the cake. Pipe twirliebits with the rest of the whipped cream on top and strategically place the chocolate Easter eggs on top. Pour the rest of the advocaat in the middle of the cake, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and serve.

This cake contains alcohol and should be served to adults only! Vrolijk Pasen!!



Saturday, April 16, 2011

Aspergesoep

"Aspergesoep is afvalsoep" I read somewhere on the internet, and I'd have to agree: asparagus soup is made with all the waste from an asparagus dinner. But what a soup! The sweet earthy flavor of the asparagus and the soft, silky mouthfeel is comforting but not heavy.

After you prepare asparagus for dinner, boil the skins and the end pieces in the remaining asparagus water, cover and simmer for a good thirty minutes, then put the liquid through a sieve. You should have about four to five cups of vegetable broth. Add half a bouillon cube of chicken stock to the broth.

Save four or five asparagus from dinner, and cut them into three or four pieces. Keep the heads and add the rest to the soup. Purée into a homogenous whole. Now melt two tablespoons of butter in a pan, add two heaping tablespoons of flour, stir until you have a paste and add in a ladle full of hot soup. Keep stirring and add one or two more ladles of soup...then pour everything into the big pot, stir until it all comes together and simmer it for another five minutes.

Cut up the remaining ham of your dinner in small dice, and chop some parsley. Taste the soup and adjust it with salt if needed, then stir in 1/4 cup of cream or whole milk. Divide the asparagus points over four bowls, ladle the hot soup on top, sprinkle with parsley and enjoy!


Asperges

"Cut here", my grandma said, pointing her knife at a seemingly random point in the sand. "Cut where?" I asked. I didn't see any difference between the area she indicated and the rest of the raised bed. Or any of the other 300 rows of sandy mounds we were standing amongst, for that matter. "Right here", she laughed, plunging the knife into the sandy soil and pulling up the biggest, whitest asparagus I had ever seen.

It was early Spring, and I must have been about 8 years old. My grandma Pauline had taken me to one of the many asparagus fields outside of the small town where I grew up in Limburg. During those early months, she would often join the asparagus harvesters out in the field to cut the growth for the day, and many, many days we enjoyed freshly cut asparagus, straight from the field.

White asparagus, contrary to the green ones that we are more accostumed to here in the US, grow below the surface in beds of loose sand. The moment their little heads see the light of day, the top hardens, changes color and alters its delicate flavor, so it's imperative that the vegetable is harvested right before surfacing.

Asperges are harvested from early Spring until June 24th. Brabant and the northern part of Limburg are the two areas that are famous for the quality, and the quantity, of its asparagus. During harvesting time, pretty much each village in the area will host an asparagus fest, feed or fair. The vegetable, nicknamed "white gold" because of the exorbitant prices it can fetch on the market, draws fans and foodies from far across the international borders.

The vegetable is easy to keep: wrap the stalks in a moist towel and keep it in the crisper for a couple of days. It also freezes fairly well: wash the asparagus, peel and pack them in a plastic bag, then freeze. When you are ready to cook, just remove the package from the freezer, unwrap the stalks and place the frozen vegetables straight into the boiling water.

White asparagus are traditionally served boiled, with eggs and ham, or with a Hollandaise sauce. They can be served cold, as a salad or starter, or warm as a main dish. Because of the whiteness of the vegetable, and being one of the first ones to show up on the table after a cold winter, asperges are a typical Easter dish.

Asparagus
1 lb of white asparagus
Water
Pinch of salt
4 eggs, hard boiled
1 tablespoon of parsley, chopped
4 slices of ham

Carefuly rinse the stalks, pat dry, and peel the asparagus with a vegetable peeler. The stalks are very fragile and will easily snap, so place them on a cutting board laying down, and while holding the stalk with one hand, peel the outer skin off, starting about 1/3 from the top. Cut about an inch from the bottom since that is usually a bitter, hard part. Don't throw the peels or the end pieces away, save them for asparagus soup

Put enough water in a pot that the stalks are barely covered, add the asparagus and bring to a boil. Depending on the freshness and size of the asparagus, it may take from 5 -20 minutes before the vegetable is cooked. It's ready to eat when the stalk is easily pierced with a fork.

In the meantime, remove the egg yolks from the boiled eggs and chop. When the asparagus are ready, take out of the water (keep the water for soup), drain for a minute and place the stalks on top of the ham on a serving platter. Decorate the white stalks with the chopped egg yolk, and sprinkle the chopped parsley over it. 




Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saveur's Best Blog Award Nominations


 Nominations Are Open for the 2011 Best Food Blog Awards

Saveur, the top culinary magazine of America, is accepting nominations for their 2011 Best Blog Awards. If you enjoy reading this blog, please consider submitting it! It would be a great way to get the Dutch kitchen on the culinary map.

Here's the link: http://www.saveur.com/article/Kitchen/Nominations-2011-Best-Food-Blog-Awards.

Thank you!
Nicole

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Advocaat

A sweet lady emailed me the other day wondering if I could assist her with finding recipes for some typical Dutch beverages. That in itself is not so difficult, but when she mentioned they had to be alcohol-free....ah.....that was a bit tougher to do. We like our beverages, we do, but apparently we also like to spike 'm!

An old-fashioned, traditional and easy to make at home drink is advocaat. Presumably first known as a tropical colonial concoction made with avocados, upon return to the blistery Netherlands, people sought out a creamy replacement for the fatty fruit and chose egg yolks instead. Smart move! Somehow advocaat with creamed avocados doesn't sound as appetizing as eh...raw eggs. Okay. Never mind :-)

Advocaat is a thick, creamy sweet drink, more often eaten with a spoon than sipped, that is also popular as an ice cream topping, as a pie filling or flavorizer for whipped cream or ice cream. Advocaat as a drink, however, has an old-fashioned feel to it: it's considered an old people's drink, predominantly for "ladies-of-a-certain-age", as my friend Hans said, who like have it served with a dollop of whipped cream on top and eat it out of a dainty glass with a small spoon. Often, at birthdays or other celebrations,  an "advocaatje" is offered to the (older) ladies whereas the (older) men get a "borrel", a small glass of Dutch gin, jenever.

Advocaat is served and sold year-round. I never cared much for the store-bought version as it has a distinct aftertaste. However, this homemade advocaat is delightful: it's creamy, sweet, with a hint of brandy and smooth with that whipped cream. Maybe I'm slowly but surely reaching "advocaat"-age. If it is, it's surely something to look forward to!

With the plentiful offering of affordable eggs during the upcoming Easter season, you may want to take advantage of the egg avalanche and try this recipe. The advocaat will hold well while refrigerated and makes for an interesting and welcome present. In order to avoid any possible food safety issues, you may want to use pasteurized eggs or make sure the temperature of the advocaat reaches close to 160F before retiring it from the boiler.

Select a smooth brandy for advocaat
Advocaat
7 egg yolks
3 eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of brandy
Pinch of salt

Mix the egg yolks, eggs and sugar in a mixer until foamy. Slowly pour in the brandy while you keep mixing. Get a double boiler going on the stove, pour the eggy mixture in the top and stir until the mixture thickens. Pay close attention to the heat: if the double boiler gets too hot, the eggs may curdle and the alcohol will dissipate.

After you've reached the desired thickness (you're looking for a pourable, thick puddinglike consistency), pour the advocaat in a clean jar or container and refrigerate it overnight, or serve it warm over ice cream or pancakes.



Makes approximately three cups of advocaat. Use the egg whites to make meringue or schuimpjes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Filet Americain

"You are going to do WHAT?!" my butcher exclaimed, wide eyed. I had just asked him to recommend a cut of beef for filet americain. He shook his head, so I explained to him that I wanted a tender piece of beef to grind up, mix in with some seasonings and then eat it on a bread roll. Raw. I had him nodding agreeably up to the "mixing in the seasonings" part. Up until there it all sounded like a precursor to a nicely grilled hamburger, which is what everybody else in line ahead of me was asking for. But when I told him I was going to let it sit for a while and then eat it raw, I lost him.

"So how do you cook it then?" he asked, not sure whether he heard me right. "Well, see, you don't cook it", I said, "you just mix it all together and eat it. With some crackers", I added, sheepishly, as if the addition of carbs would all of a sudden make the concept somehow sound more sane. "But how can you make sure nobody gets sick?" he then wondered out loud. Hmmm..."I don't know", I hesitated, "I guess I'm just making sure I buy good quality meat from you and keep my fingers crossed" and smiled nicely.

My butcher had nothing to say to that, so just nodded at the piece of wrapped top sirloin steak I was holding in my hand and said that it would do nicely.

Filet americain, or American filet, is a raw beef spread that is served on a roll for lunch, or on crackers as an appetizer. Not for the faint of heart, and most certainly not for anybody with a compromised immune system, or the elderly, children, pregnant women, it is however a much sought-after product and dearly missed by Dutch expats.

How the name came about is anybody's guess. It's a variation on the famous steak tartare, a dish supposedly named after the nomadic Tartars who roamed the plains of Russia. They were so busy running about and doing Tartar things that they did not have time to stop, cook and eat, so they consumed raw steak that they tenderized by putting it underneath their saddle for a day's ride. Nowadays, steak tartare is a patty of ground beef, topped with capers, an egg yolk, seasonings, and served tableside so that each guest can mix in the ingredients themselves and adjust it to taste.

In the early days of the 20th century this dish was called "steak a l'Americaine", steak the American way. Why? Not sure. Maybe back then they figured that our cowboys were as busy as the Tartars, and ate their steak raw. With capers and an egg yolk. Yeah, somehow I don't see that happening. But either way, one thing turned to another and the steak a l'Americaine was born, dubious past included.

Filet americain is a ground up version of the steak tartare: beef, seasonings, capers, onions, and some mayo and mustard to bind it all together....it's ground into a paste and spread on a white crunchy roll, topped with some sliced or diced onions and a few capers by choice.

CAUTION! PLEASE READ BEFORE PROCEEDING!
Before you make this dish, I want to warn you about the possible risk of foodborne illnesses. Raw meat can be dangerous to your health and as mentioned above, anybody elderly, young, pregnant, sick, etc etc, should really NOT eat this dish. Raw meat can be a source of foodborne pathogens such as E.coli or Salmonella, and eating raw meat can cause foodborne illnesses that may lead to serious illness or even death. If you decide to make this dish, you are on your own! I am just posting the recipe as a part of sharing about Dutch culture and food customs, but for pete's sake, don't make yourself sick.

Rubbing the meat with Worcestershire sauce which has a vinegar base will kill some of the pathogens, but not all. After cutting up the meat, clean the knife with hot water and soap and let it air-dry, clean your counter and use a different cutting board for the rest of the ingredients. Take care to not cross-contaminate any other food items and wash your hands frequently. Immediately refrigerate the meat paste after you've decided it's seasoned to taste. Refrigerate for at least an hour before consuming.

Filet Americain
1lb of sirloin steak
4 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of capers
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black ground pepper
4 medium sized crunchy dill pickles
3 tablespoons of diced red onion
3 tablespoons of mayo
1 tablespoon of mustard (optional)
Curry, paprika, garlic etc optional

Rub the steak on both sides with the Worcestershire sauce and let it sit for a minute or two. Then cut the fat off the meat and any silver skin, chop the beef in large chunks and place it in the food processor. Add the capers, salt, black pepper, chopped pickles, onion and mayo and grind to a paste. Taste. Adjust seasonings.
Refrigerate until use. Eat within four hours of preparing. Do not keep longer than 24 hours!



Sunday, April 3, 2011

Uitsmijter

The Uitsmijter. The name evokes images of strength, courage and forceful endings. The word "uitsmijter" itself means "forcefully throw out" and can refer to a profession (bouncer at a nightclub), but in food speak, it's the name of a solid open-faced sandwich with meat, cheese and fried eggs. It's not a sandwich for dainty eaters or a peckish appetite. The Uitsmijter is here to deal with your hunger, with your need for food. It's the ruler of all sandwiches. It's a manwich. It's a ter-mi-na-tor......

In the south of Holland, where I grew up, uitsmijters would be served as the last "one for the road before we get thrown out" meal after a night of partying. Groups of friends would usually end up at someone's house late at night (or early in the morning) after the bars closed to wrap up the night with a warm, comforting meal in their stomach before going to bed. Many a parent has woken up to the smell of ham and eggs in the middle of the night, only to find a kitchen full of youngsters eating breakfast. That was often the point where the "throwing out" happened :-)

The Dutch will often have an uitsmijter for breakfast (on the weekends) or lunch. The sandwich is eaten with knife and fork and is a full meal. The great thing about it is that you can make this sandwich your own: you decide what bread, what cheese, what meat and how you like your eggs fried. It's all good!

Most often the choice of meat will be ham, if not specified, but uitsmijters can also be served with roast beef, pastrami, turkey, bacon or even just with cheese.

The eggs are usually served sunny-side up, over medium. If you order an uitsmijter for breakfast it's served by itself. As a lunch item, it usually comes accompanied with a small salad on the side or some greens to spruce it up.

Uitsmijter
2 slices of bread
Butter
2 slices of ham
4 slices of cheese
2 eggs

Put two slices of bread on a plate, and butter them lightly. Put the slices of ham on the bread, then the cheese. Add butter to a skillet and fry the eggs. If you want, you can also fry the ham. When the eggs are done to your liking, slide them on top of the cheese, add some salt and pepper and you're ready to go!