Monday, December 30, 2013

Kniepertjes

Nothing like the last day of the year to kick back for a moment, grab a cup of coffee and reflect on the past 365 days. The hassle of Sinterklaas and Christmas is over, only tomorrow night's event (in case you've organized or are attending a New Year's Eve party) is left before the old year turns to new, and we get a chance to do it all over again.

The northern provinces of Groningen and Drenthe have a unique way of celebrating this change. On the last day of the year, the Drenthenaars consume flat, crispy, sweet waffles or cookies called kniepertjes, so called because you have to "knijp" (pinch) the waffle iron shut in order to bake them. On the first day of the new year, they enjoy the same type of waffle, but now rolled up tight (rolletjes). The old year, as in the flat cookie, is now laid before them, having revealed all it had in store. The new year, just like the tightly rolled one, is yet to unfold itself and holds all kinds of mysteries and excitement. So to add some sweetness to the unexpected, they fill these rolls up with sweet whipped cream. What a great way to start a new year!

These waffles are easy to make. Use your ice cream cone maker, or stroopwafel machine or pizzelle to make these. Roll them fast, as they set and crisp up as soon as they cool. This recipe makes approximately 40 waffles.

Kniepertjes
1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1 egg
1 cup of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick butter, melted and cool
Pinch of salt

Mix the flour and sugar together, then mix in the egg, the milk, the vanilla and the cinnamon. When all has come together and there are no lumps, stir in the melted butter and the salt. The batter should be thick but pourable. If it's too thick, add a tablespoon of milk at a time. Let the batter sit for a good fifteen minutes before using it.

Heat up the waffle maker and pour a tablespoon of batter on the hot plate. Close the lid and follow instructions (usually a light will come on or off to let you know the waffle is ready). As these waffles hold more sugar than the regular recipe, keep track of how long it takes for the waffles to be ready. Bake one, let it cool and taste it. Do you want more cinnamon? Then this is a great time to add it! Bake half of the waffles flat.

For the rolled up ones: use the handle of a wooden spoon to roll the cookies on. As soon as you pull the cookie off the hot plate, lay it on the counter, place the handle on one end and roll it up. Press down the handle on the seam for a second or two until the cookie sets, then pull it off the handle. Let it cool further on a plate.

These rolled up ones are great filled with sweet whipped cream, but are just as good without. Happy New Year everyone!!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Banketstaaf

It simply does not feel like Christmas without it. As soon as the banketstaaf hits the neighborhood bakery pastry case or the grocery store (which is right around Sinterklaas's arrival towards the end of November), there will be no way around it. At the office for the daily mid-morning cup of coffee, in the afternoon for that encouraging mug of hot tea, whenever you are presented with or have the opportunity to select something sweet, a tempting slice of banketstaaf will be there, in all its plain simplicity.

I say simplicity because there is really not much to a banketstaaf, by the looks of it. A bit of puff pastry, a center of almond paste, and if you're lucky and get the more luxurious version, an almond on top. And yet it all its modesty, the banket gives you a feeling of well-being, of abundance, of comfort. It's sheer luxury to bite into the crispy, flaky top and taste the sweet, almond paste. Just look at people's faces when they take their first bite....Who can say "no" to that?!

Banketstaaf, or sometimes just called banket, is traditionally sold in the shape of a log or rod. If it's shaped like an M or an S, it's called banketletter. This recipe makes two 9 inch staven, or logs, that can be eaten cold or warm. It's a great gift to share, and fun for kids to help make. Or you can double the recipe, and while the other two banket are baking, put your feet up, pour a cup of coffee or tea and serve yourself a slice of the still warm banketstaaf you just made....A treat well deserved!

Banketstaaf
10 oz slivered almonds
10 oz powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon of almond extract
1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm's puff pastry (box contains 2 sheets)
10 whole blanched almonds


Thaw the puff pastry sheet on the counter. In the meantime, pulse half of the slivered almonds with half of the powdered sugar in a food processor until the almonds have turned into rough meal. Do the same with the other half of the almonds and sugar. Mix the flours in a bowl, and add the teaspoon of lemon zest, the beaten egg (minus a tablespoon) and the almond extract. Knead to a pliable paste. Divide the amount in two halves and wrap each in plastic film. Refrigerate while you wait for the puff pastry to thaw. The almond paste can also be made a day or two in advance.

When the puff pastry has thawed, dust the counter with a little bit of flour. Unfold the puff pastry and carefully roll the dough out to a 9 x 9 inch square. Cut the dough horizontally in half so that you have two 9 x 4.5 inch pieces, with the long side towards you.

Heat the oven to 400F. Remove the almond paste from the fridge and roll each log, while still in the plastic wrap to a uniform log of about 8 inches long. Place it in the middle of one of the puff pastry strips. Carefully pull the top part of the dough over the log, and roll it towards you. Wet the bottom half inch of the dough with a little bit of water, and roll the dough tightly over the seam. Fold in the edges on each side so that the log is sealed. Do the same with the second log.

Put parchment paper on a baking sheet and place both logs on top. Press five almonds into the top of each log, and brush lightly with the remaining egg. Put the sheet pan in the fridge for ten minutes, then bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden and puffy.

Cool until warm, cut into slices and serve warm or cold. Goes great with a cup of coffee, some tea or hot chocolate!



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Speculaascake met peren

These are busy times in a Dutch household! It's only five more days until Sinterklaas is supposed to leave a sackload of gifts on the doorstep but most people, as help-Sints(ahem ahem), still have gifts to buy, rhymes to come up with and even worse, think of any surprises they are going to built this year. Because during Sinterklaas you don't just wrap a present and attach a card to it: you disguise the gift into a completely unrelated (or not) object and write a long, tongue-in-cheek-and-poking-fun rhyming poem for the recipient of your generosity.  

So if that's you, don't despair.  You still have five whole days. Treat yourself to a comforting, sweet and hopefully rhyme-inspiring cake, made with fresh fruit and speculaaskruiden, those all-present spices that flavor just about anything this time of year. 

Put your feet up with a good cup of coffee and a slice of speculaascake. Pears are a fantastic fall and winter fruit, and speculaas evokes promises of goodness and cheer. Take a sip, munch a bite. Grab a pen and paper. Go to the RhymeZone and before you know it, a fantastic poem will come right rolling out!  

Speculaascake met peren
1 ½ stick butter
½ cup sugar
1 cup finely ground almonds
1 teaspoon almond essence
4 eggs
1 ½ cup flour
1 tablespoon speculaas* spices
3 pears
2 tablespoons apricot jam

Cream the butter with the sugar. Add one egg at a time, until each egg has been absorbed. Stir in the almond meal, the flour and the almond essence, lastly the speculaaskruiden, until you have a smooth batter.

Heat the oven to 350F. Grease a pie plate. Peel the pears, slice them in half and remove the core. Slice the pear halves in thin slices and brush with a little bit of lemon juice. Pour the batter into the pie plate and place five  pear halves on top, pushing them slightly into the dough, but just a little bit.

Bake for 50 minutes or until done. Add half a tablespoon of warm water to the apricot jam and brush the pears and the cake with the glaze. Let cool. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.






Speculaas spices: mix 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon with ½ tablespoon of nutmeg, clove, ginger and coriander each, 1/4 of a tablespoon of cardamom, white pepper, and ground orange peel. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Goulashsoep

Dutch winter evenings are often a display of opposites. Dark, cold nights, with a howling northern wind that is trying to get into every nook and cranny of the house, frozen canals on which you can hear the loud pangs of the ice thickening while you are trying to cycle your way home as fast as you can. But once the house comes in sight, the welcoming glow of the outside light by the door draws you in, the gezellige steamed up kitchen windows promise good food, the glow of the fireplace warms your heart. And while you peel off all those layers of clothes that have kept you from freezing on your outside adventure, a big plate of warming, comforting food is set before you. Ah bliss!

This season is generally cold and harsh, especially on the open country roads. It is a perfect time of the year for comfort food, one of the many things our cuisine excels in. Thick soups, casseroles and slow cooked meats such as good old-fashioned draadjesvlees, or meat simmered to threads, are all favorites during this time of year. It’s a time to stir up a pot of old time traditionals such as goulashsoep, an originally Hungarian soup that is now one of the standard offerings in commercially available products in the Netherlands.

Goulashsoep
3 tablespoons of bacon grease
1 large onion, diced
2 heaping tablespoons of Hungarian paprika
2 lb of beef (chuck rib or pot roast)
2 carrots
3 cloves of garlic
2 medium red peppers
2 medium sized potatoes
1 tablespoon of caraway seeds

Heat your cooking pot and melt the bacon grease. When the fat is hot,  add the onions. Stir until they are translucent. Take the pot off the stove and stir in the paprika. Note: you want the paprika to hit the hot grease and release most of its flavor but you don't want it to burn as it will turn bitter and spoil the dish.

Put the pot back on the stove and add the beef, cut in bite size chunks. Sauté the meat in the hot fat and mix it in with the onions and the paprika, then turn down the heat and add 2 cups of warm water. Let the beef braise in a covered pot for about a good hour, keeping an eye on the amount of liquid. Make sure you have enough liquid in the pot at all times!

Peel and cut the carrots in bitesize pieces or slices, whichever you prefer. Peel and mince the garlic, and slice the peppers into 1 inch pieces, after removing the seeds. Add the carrots, garlic and peppers to the pot, add three more cups of water and let the stew slowly simmer for another hour.

Cube the potatoes after you peel them and add them to the pot with three additional cups of water. Stir in the tablespoon of caraway seed and simmer until the potatoes are done. On a slow simmer, the potatoes will thicken the stew and bring all the flavors together. Before you serve, taste and adjust with salt and pepper, if needed.



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Citroencake

We Dutch, how we love our coffee! In case you did not grow up with it, Douwe Egberts is our national coffee brand. Since their start in 1753, the company also sold tea, but it wasn't until 1937 that Pickwick was adopted as a brand name for this specific product branch. According to the 2007 numbers from the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS), we drink an average of 3.2 cups a day. The second most consumed beverage is tea, at a rate of 100 liters a year per person. Men tend to drink more coffee, women appear to favor tea, especially in the afternoons.

It's not surprising. Tea, the way it is taken in Holland, in a glass mug and plain with perhaps a bit of sugar, has something comforting, kind and gentle about it. It's a cup of tea your mom has ready for you, waiting at the kitchen table, for when you get home from school. It's what young girls drink when they get together on a Saturday afternoon to play. It's tea, a big pot of it, that women will brew when their best friend is coming over for a shoulder to cry on. A big pot of tea, and a slice of cake. Besides coffee, we love cake.

The word "cake" in Dutch is used for pound cakes and loaf cakes only. Any other cake goes by the name of "taart". One of the most favorite cakes is citroencake, a lemon flavored pound cake. The richness of the cake goes well with the slight astringent character of tea, and make for a perfect moment of bliss.....

Citroencake
1 cup butter, softened
1 heaping cup sugar
1 1/2 cup cake flour
5 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Cream the butter and the sugar together. Carefully incorporate one egg at a time. Fold in the flour and mix for another 30 seconds. Mix in the lemon extract, the vanilla extract, the salt and one tablespoon of the lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9x5 loaf pan. Scoop the batter in the pan, and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until the cake is golden brown.

Leave it in the pan for ten minutes, then unmold it and let the cake cool on a rack. In the meantime, mix the powdered sugar with the milk and enough lemon juice to make a thick glaze. Pour the glaze over the cool cake, and sprinkle the zest on top.



By the way, the Pickwick tune that is used in their commercials is very catchy....you've been warned! :-)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Appelcarrée

Any old Dutch cookbook worth its weight will have a large variety of apple dishes: after all, it is one of our favorite fruits! The most recipes I've counted were in a Margriet cookbook from 1962, listing a whopping 35 apple recipes, from traditional ones like appeltaart and appelbollen, to more obscure dishes called appelsneeuwberg and appelcoupe. Worth investigating!

The Romans introduced the apples in the Netherlands, or at least made a valuable contribution, and we've tinkered with the fruit since. As we would. Numerous varieties with interesting names such as Notarisappel, Brabantse Bellefleur, Zoete Ermgaard and the beloved Elstar are being produced and maintained, but sometimes old trees like these disappear. If you are considering planting a tree or two, why not look into some of these old Dutch varieties?

In the meantime, company is on its way and I've pulled some puff pastry from the freezer. Today I'm making an appelcarrée, similar to an appelflap, but a little bit fancier presentation-wise.

Appelcarrée
1 package of puff pastry
3 apples, preferably a variety of flavors
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons sugar
Cinnamon (optional)
Raisins (optional)
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons apricot jam

Thaw the sheets of puff pastry. In the meantime, peel, core and chop the apples into small pieces. Mix with the lemon juice and the sugar: add cinnamon and raisins if desired.

Divide the puff pastry along the folds so that you end up with six strips: approximately 3 inches wide, 9 inches long. Spread the apple filling from top to bottom on 3 strips of the pastry, leaving about a half inch on each side.

Cut horizontal (to the short edge) lines into the remaining three strips, careful to not cut all the way to the side, leave about half an inch on each side. You're looking for a louvered look: this will allow for the steam to escape while the apples cook and prevent a soggy mess. Lift and cover the apple mixture with the pastry. Use a fork to push down on the edges, on all sides, to seal the dough.

Heat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and carefully place your three appelcarrées on the pan. Brush each pastry with egg, then bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove the carrées from the oven. Mix one tablespoon of water to thin the apricot jam, and brush the top of the pastries with the jam. Eat warm (preferably).









Monday, September 30, 2013

A thousand Facebook likes!

Gefeliciteerd!! We just reached our first 1,000 likes on Facebook and, as promised, we'll celebrate in a properly fashion! Stay tuned for more exciting news to come :-)


By the way, like the card? Check out the Simply Dutch website (www.simplydutch.com) for great designs, children's clothing and accessories, all from Dutch designers!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Spinazie met soldaatjes

If you have never visited Marianne Orchard's blog,  Like A Sponge, I highly encourage you to do so. Orchard, a British native who makes her home in the Netherlands, captures the Dutch spirit with kindness but with a very clear view of what makes us different or stand out, and she does this with a great sense of humor. Her latest post, Dutch Chorus at the Checkout, is very recognizable, and I trust for many of you it may too. I read her post with a smile on my face, and was encouraged to see that the thrifty spirit is still alive and well!

Marianne's purchase at the grocery store was spinazie, spinach, and it reminded me of a traditional dish called Spinazie met Soldaatjes, spinach with soldiers, these last ones being fried strips of bread, not the military kind. Spinach is a tricky vegetable to serve kids, right along with spruitjes and boerenkool, but made from fresh produce and with a splash of fresh cream, it may work just fine. And if they don't eat it, try the traditional Dutch approach of mashing the veg with boiled potatoes and a big helping of appelmoes, apple sauce! Works every time :-)

Spinazie met soldaatjes
2 eggs
2 lbs fresh spinach
2 slices of bread, day old
1 tablespoon butter
Salt
Pepper
Nutmeg
Generous splash of cream (optional)

Boil the eggs in water, for 8 to 10 minutes, rinse with cold water. Let cool for a minute, then peel and slice.

Wash the spinach and remove any sand, hard ends of the stem or wilted leaves. Cut the korstjes, the crusts, off the bread and cut it into strips. Melt half of the butter in a pan, shake the water off the spinach and add to the pan, stir once or twice, cover and leave on low heat to wilt the leaves.

Stir the spinach. Heat the rest of the butter in a small frying pan and fry the bread on either side until golden brown. Taste the spinach, add a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir. If you wish, you can add a splash of heavy cream at this point, stir, and bring up to temperature.

Serve the spinazie with the egg slices and the soldaatjes.





Saturday, September 7, 2013

Appelmoes


If you're not Dutch, or were not raised by Dutch parents, the fixation with apple sauce may leave you wondering. The Dutch love their appelmoes, and it is very often a side dish to the main meal of the day. 

As children move on from puréed baby food and start sharing the same meal as their parents, their boiled potatoes and vegetables are often prakked together with pan gravy and apple sauce. It makes for a sweet-and-salty taste and a mushy texture, and it is great for masking the more bitter tastes of traditional vegetables such as boerenkool (kale), spruitjes (Brussels sprouts) or zuurkool (pickled cabbage). Most children will consume the sweet applesauce with their warm dinner and consequently, many an adult will continue the tradition, whether it’s with homemade applesauce or store bought. 

Children's menus at Dutch restaurants will invariably offer appelmoes on the side, and a very old-fashioned but oh-so-satisfying entrée to order is chicken with french fries and apple sauce. Kinderen Voor Kinderen, a Dutch children's choir, sang a very catchy tune about it: kip, patat en appelmoes. And it is a must of course that you dip your hot and salty French fry in the mayonnaise first, and then in the cold and sweet apple sauce. Don't knock it until you try it!

The weather is slowly cooling down and Fall is just around the corner. The apple trees are ready to share their bounty, so let's prepare some appelmoes! The sauce can be held in the fridge for a couple of days, frozen or canned. Please follow your local Extension office recommendations regarding canning procedures.


Appelmoes
8 large apples  (preferably a variety of flavors: tart, sweet etc)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup water
Cinnamon stick, optional

Peel, core and chop the apples. Add with sugar and water to a saucepan with a heavy bottom and slowly bring up to a simmer. Cover and simmer the apples until done: leave it chunky or mash it slightly to create a finer texture. Taste and adjust the sweetness or the flavor of cinnamon as preferred. 



Sunday, June 30, 2013

Caramelco

The whole reason why I ended up with a recipe for Caramelco started with this great news in Forbes Magazine: Eindhoven is the top most inventive city of the world! We already knew this of course, as Eindhoven was the starting point in 1891 for Philips, a company that has pioneered many technological inventions and industrial changes throughout history, and still is, to this day.

Curious as to whether this city in North Brabant had a particular claim on any type of food, I started researching its culinary past. I found mentions of lektoeten (stroopsoldaatjes) and poeliepek (dropwater) which seem to be more nationally known. But one product that was famous in the 1960's and 70s was a product made in the nearby vicinity of Eindhoven, in a small community called Bergeijk.

Here, from 1913 until 1980, the milk processing operation Saint Bernardus (later acquired by Campina) produced, among other things, koffiemelk (condensed coffee creamer) . Story goes that one of the sweetened condensed milk cans got stuck in the autoclave, and after being heated for a prolonged amount of time the contents of the can turned into a sweet, caramelized spread. The factory was quick to reproduce the error and marketed the brown goop under the name Caramelco, which quickly turned into a popular sandwich topping.

And that's really not all that surprising either. Given the fact that we have a huge sweet tooth and love to decorate our open-faced sandwiches with all kinds of sweets possible (stomped mice, anyone?), the product gained a huge following until the factory was acquired by Campina and production of Caramelco ceased. Which leads me to think that the perceived market spread wasn't so huge after all, but what do I know? They still sell  dubbelzoute drop and let's face it, not that many (besides me) can be enamored by the taste of doubly-salted-ammonia-flavored black rubber, right? Right.

Nowadays, Caramelco still remains in the flavor-memory of many that grew up with this broodbeleg. With the globalization of our cuisines and culinary discoveries, it appears that Caramelco most certainly exists in other cultures, where it is known as manjar or dulce de leche. There is therefore no more need to yearn for the past! Even better, Caramelco is very easy to make. It can be used as a sweet spread on bread, but also consider using it as a barrier between your apple pie filling and your dough, or as a filler for cookies. And when in doubt, just eat a spoonful....it's good :-)

Caramelco
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
Water

Add the can of condensed milk to a sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil and simmer for two hours. Be sure to keep the can under water at all times. After two hours, turn off the stove and let the can cool. When cool to the touch, open and taste.



Sunday, June 23, 2013

Zuringsoep

Summer is a time for as little cooking as possible: we choose cold dishes such as huzarensalade to serve with the evening boterham, or a lekkerbekje from the fish cart at the market. Anybody who has ever had a slice of Dutch brown bread, good butter, mature cheese and fresh slices of tomato or cucumber knows that it is a very satisfying meal indeed!

But when weather permits (how we love it when the sun shines!), everybody and their dog pulls out the charcoal grill, the gourmet kit or fondue pot. Friends are called, neighbors are let in on the plans, and a grill-out is planned for the back patio, the balcony or, by lack of both, simply on the stoep. The local butcher sells "barbecue pakketten", a collection of seasoned meats: pork chops, beef skewers, sausages and very often fresh sliced pork, or speklappen.

But if you're not in the mood for large cookouts, lots of meat or having plenty of people over, treat yourself to a cup of soup. Sorrel, or zuring, grows freely in fields and along ditch banks, and in the old days it was often used to make a quick, early summer soup, one of the first greens to be enjoyed. My mother remembers her grandmother gathering zuring from the meadow and making this soup. It is also known as spinach dock.

Zuring, as its name indicates, has a slight sour taste to it, but it is also very refreshing. Combine it with the aforementioned cheese sandwich, or simply with some toast, and you're set. No need to heat up the kitchen at all but for a short time to get the soup ready, easy-peasy!

Sorrel can be easily grown from seed and will do well in pots or planters. It is rich in Vitamin C and iron.

Zuringsoep
2 large handfuls of sorrel leaves
1 tablespoon of butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
Salt
Pepper
Sour cream (optional)

Cut the stems off the leaves and discard if too woody, then chop the leaves and tender stems into pieces. Heat the butter in a saucepan, sauté the garlic and onion until soft. Add the potato, and the chopped leaves on top and stir for a second, then pour in the vegetable or chicken stock. Cover, bring up to a light simmer and cook for ten minutes at low heat or until the potatoes are done. Purée, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir in a tablespoon of sour cream if desired.





Sunday, June 16, 2013

Boerenjongens

Boerenjongens, simply called farm boys, are golden and dark raisins soaked in a sugary syrup and brandy. It is a favorite with the older generation, although it is currently experiencing a small revival with the younger crowds. At birthdays, weddings or funerals, the men would often consume a small serving of boerenjongens, served in a borrelglaasje with a small spoon, whereas the ladies would prefer boerenmeisjes, the female equivalent, made with dried apricots. 

You will also find that boerenjongens have found their way into a variety of other foods: most notoriously as a topping for yogurt, ice cream or pancakes, but also on the market in vla, or as a stuffing in pork roasts. The alcohol fuses nicely with the sugary syrup, and after a week of five of soaking up all those lovely flavors in a dark, cool space, these farm boys are ready to put to work! 

Both boerenjongens and boerenmeisjes are a great gift from your kitchen. They're quick to make, and are open to any personalized flavors: add a vanilla bean or star anise to the meisjes, and infuse the boys with cognac and allspice for a change of taste. 

Boerenjongens
2 cups golden raisins
½ cup dark raisins
1 cup sugar
3 cups water
1 cup brandy
1 cinnamon stick

Wash the raisins and soak in enough warm water to cover them, for a good two hours. Heat the sugar with the 3 cups of water, bring to a boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then set aside to cool. Add the raisins to a glass jar. Mix the cool sugary syrup with the brandy, stir and pour over the raisins. If they’re not covered with the liquid, make another batch of syrup. Add the cinnamon stick, cover and let sit in a cool, dark place for four weeks before sampling. 


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Boerenmeisjes

All you ever heard about Dutch farm girls is true: they're soft, sweet, juicy and have a bit of a kick to 'm. No...not those kind of girls.....I'm talking about boerenmeisjes, farm girls, lovely sweet, brandied apricots. It's a classic and old fashioned Dutch alcoholic refreshment.

Remember the chat about the relationship between ladies-of-a-certain-age and advocaat? Well, boerenmeisjes are a little bit like that. It's not for the young, hip crowd, but more for the relaxed, laid-back older, no-nonsense generation. Boerenmeisjes are either consumed straight from the jar, with two or three pieces of fruit in a small glass with enough syrup to keep them moist, over ice cream, or puréed as an apricot sauce. You can also chop several up and fold into a Dutch apple pie filling.

Their counterpart, boerenjongens (farm boys), are brandied raisins. Equally good and served just like the girls, and a great gift. The boerenmeisjes and boerenjongens will take about four to five weeks on the shelf before they're ready.

If you choose to use fresh fruit, use apricots that are still firm to the touch. Half them, remove the pit and do not simmer for more than five minutes so as to retain their shape.

Boerenmeisjes
20 dried apricots
3 cups warm water
1 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup brandy

Soak the apricots in the warm water for twenty minutes, then pour off the remaining water into a saucepan. Add the sugar, and bring it up to a slow boil. Stir. As soon as the sugar has dissolved, add the dried apricots to the saucepan, add the cinnamon stick, and let the fruit simmer, on low heat, for fifteen minutes.

Take everything off the stove and let it cool. When it has cooled down, stir in a cup of brandy, and transfer the fruit and the cinnamon stick to a clean jar. Don't pack the fruit too tight as it will need space to soak and expand. Make sure the fruit is covered with syrup and brandy. Cover and set aside in a cool, dark place.

Once a week, check on the meisjes to make sure they are still covered. If not, add equal parts syrup and brandy, stir and cover again.

After four to five weeks, these girls are ready to be served!




Sunday, June 2, 2013

Christoffelvlaai

As soon as the cherries hit the store, I start craving Christoffel pie. It's a traditional Limburg pie, or vlaai, that is standard on the list of top vlaaien and a favorite of many. The standard vlaai is baked with a yeast dough, filled with canned cherries, topped with chocolate whipped cream, regular sweet whipped cream, a sprinkling of dark chocolate curls and a dusting of cocoa. Thanks to observant reader Emily, we know that there is also a Christoffeltaart which consists of a meringue bottom instead of dough, and may contain custard or vanilla cream or some other combination. Regardless of the variety that you prefer, chocolate, whipped cream and cherries are always involved.

But who is this Christoffel and why was a pie named after him? I'd love to know the answer but search after search comes up blank. Someone suggested that it's a vlaai typical from Roermond, a city in the southeastern part of the Netherlands, whose patron saint is St. Christopher. A local bakery states the same information, but that's all I can find, so I'm not sure if we're milking the same information or whether that is true. Further research into St. Christopher himself reveals very little detail as well and the only connection between him and the cherries is that he is the patron saint of fruit merchants. Okay. Not much to go on as far as a valid explanation for why this pie is named after this pious pilgrim, but I'll take it!

Christoffelvlaai
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
2 cups canned cherries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon panko or breadcrumbs
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 small dark chocolate bar

Measure out the flour. Proof the yeast in the warm milk, then add it to the flour, together with the sugar. Knead four or five times until it comes together, and knead in the butter and the egg yolk until the dough is satiny but firm. Cover and set aside for the first rise.

Drain the liquid off the canned cherries, stir in the cornstarch and bring up to heat, all the while stirring. The cornstarch will thicken the liquid. Fold in the sugar and the cherries, and set aside.

Roll the dough out to a circle slightly larger than your pie plate, lay it over your dough roller and line the vlaai form if you have one, or a regular pie plate (approx. 9 to 10 inches across). Use a fork to dock the dough, then cover and let rise until puffy, about thirty minutes.

Heat your oven to 375F. Sprinkle a tablespoon of panko or breadcrumbs on the pie dough, and pour in the cherries. Bake for 25 minutes. If the top of the dough browns too fast, tent it with some aluminum foil.

Whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar. Remove one third when done, then fold in the cocoa powder (easier if you sift it above the bowl) in the remaining two thirds of whipped cream.

When the pie has cooled, spread the chocolate whipped cream on top. Shave curls off the dark chocolate bar and sprinkle over the whipped cream. Pipe white whipping cream rosettes along the edge, and refrigerate the vlaai until it's time to eat.


 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lange Vingers

Lange vingers, literally translated as "long fingers", are part of that collection of old-fashioned cookies that are slowly but surely disappearing from the cookie tin. The cookies we know from our oma's koekjestrommel, those oldtime reliable treats like kermiskoekjes, lange vingers and maria biscuits, are making way for other novel delights. These new-comers are just as good, but sometimes only a simple, sugary, crispy cookie will do.

The love affair with this sweet treat starts as a teething child, when you get a lange vinger to chew on. The hard, sugary crust is pleasing, and the cookie softens as you munch on it. Once your teeth are set, you relish in the crunchy, dry texture, and challenge your siblings to a whistling competition whilst your mouth is full of crunched up lange vingers. Or see how many you can fit in your mouth, as these two are trying. Not a pretty sight, but always good for many giggles!

Lange vingers are also perfect to serve with any kind of vla or custard to provide texture, or like last week's dessert, Haagse Bluf. It adds flavor and support for kwarktaarten or other pourable fillings. And as an adult, having the time for an afternoon cup of tea, a couple of lange vingers and a good book to read is sheer luxury.

Best of all, these lange vingers are easy to make, quick to whip up and you probably have most ingredients in house already. The batter is piped onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and will be baked until lightly browned.

Lange Vingers
3 eggs, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 scant tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour, sifted
Additional sugar for topping

Beat the egg yolks, the vanilla and the tablespoons of sugar until creamy and fluffy. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt and the 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff white peaks form.

Fold the sifted flour into the egg whites, then fold the egg yolk cream carefully into it, making sure not to loose too much air.

Preheat the oven at 325F. Fill a piping bag with a smooth tip (about 1/2 inch) and pipe 4.5 inch stripes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Sprinkle plenty of sugar on top of each cookie. Bake for 10-15 minutes, and make sure they don't brown too much. The lange vingers will harden. If they stay soft, place them back in the oven after you have baked all the batter and turned the oven off, and let them dry.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Haagse Bluf


Full of hot air and a whole lot about nothing......that's how the general attitude coming out of The Hague is often perceived by the rest of the country. But 's Gravenhage, or Den Haag for short, does happen to be the seat of the Dutch government, the parliament, the Council of State AND the Supreme Court. It's where the King lives with his family, where most embassies are located and a place the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court call home. On top of that, they lay claim to one of the best hard candies, the famous Haagse Hopje, which flavor is used for such delights as hopjesvla. Which was, on top of everything, invented by a baron, and not just some Joe Schmo down the block. Not that there's anything wrong with that but....you know...if you're claiming to be all that, baron definitely beats no-baron.

On the other hand there are plenty of other things that come out of The Hague that make you cringe out of a secondary sense of shame. As with all things, the pendulum has to swing the other way and oh boy, does it swing!

But one dessert can lay claim on the premise that it is indeed full of air, and proudly so, and that is Haagse Bluf. Whipped egg whites with sugar and berry juice turns into a very light, airy, frothy, sweet and delightful sweet treat, regardless of its slightly derogatory name. Haagse Bluf, The Hague Bluff, is in reference to the fact that the dish is mostly air, whipped into looking a lot more than it truly is.....

The red berry juice is traditionally a mixture of red currants and other red berries, but you are welcome to give it your own personal twist. I substituted the berry juice for a freshly made rhubarb-strawberry jam, as those are the two foods that are in season.

Haagse Bluf
2 egg whites*
6 heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar
3 tablespoons berry juice

Whip the egg whites, sugar and berry juice into stiff peaks. Serve with lady fingers, additional fresh fruit or a compote.



* Consuming raw egg whites can be hazardous to your health. Using pasteurized egg whites is recommended. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Moederdag


Hushed voices downstairs in the kitchen....the smell of toast. A mug clatters in the sink, laughter. 

Small hands grip the handles on the serving tray, trying to balance the load, while climbing the stairs. Flowers, a card, toast, coffee, a boiled egg and juice. 

Breakfast in bed, once a year. 


Happy Moederdag to all women!


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Zomerkoninkjes

If you're at all keeping up with the news back home, you know we've just had an important change of the guard. Queen Beatrix abdicated, after 33 years of being at the helm, the throne to her son William Alexander. For the first time in 123 years, we'll go back to having a king.

My mind being the way it is, I was more consumed with finding out what they were going to eat during these exciting days than with the whole crowning affair per se, with all due respect. Would they serve Koninginnesoep for one last time? A slice of koningsbrood to go with a Dutch cup of coffee? Oh, if only I knew!!! Worst of all, with all this talk about koning this and koning that, I could not stop thinking about zomerkoninkjes.

Zomerkoninkjes, summer kings, is a Dutch nickname for strawberries. They grow abundantly in The Netherlands, both in fields and in greenhouses. Furthermore, it's a great way to make some spending money in the summer: when I was a young girl, many of my classmates would pick field strawberries for the local farmer and get paid per crate. I tried to do the same one year, but ended up eating more strawberries than landed in my crate. At the end of the day, I had only made a few guilders. And I had a big stomach ache!

But strawberries are a traditional early summer treat. As soon as the red berries are available in the store or at the market, the Dutch will serve these first berries on slices of white, buttered bread with a sprinkling of regular sugar, much to the delight of the children. Because, as strawberries are fairly juicy, the moment you pour sugar on it, it dissolves. The trick was to convince your parents that you had not yet sprinkled any sugar on the fruit and that it was imperative that you'd sprinkle some more, and then see how many times you could get away with it.

What a grand way to celebrate the change of seasons: whether it be on Soestdijk or at your kitchen table. Long live the summer king!



Friday, April 26, 2013

Baka Bana


This recipe was first published in Dutch, the mag We finish our colonial cuisine journey with another traditional dish, of course, and one that takes hardly any time to make. Fried plantains are traditional in the Surinamese as well as the Indonesian kitchen, where they are called pisang goreng. Bananas and plantains are a staple for the population and because of its abundance, it flavors many desserts, baked goods or shines by itself as a delicious after-dinner treat.

This yellow fruit however can also be served as part of the dinner, especially if you present them with a peanut sauce dressing. It's different but equally tasty!

If you prefer to skip the peanut sauce and just go for the fried banana, you may serve them either by themselves and a dusting of powdered sugar, or with a scoop of ice cream.

Baka bana
2 ripe bananas or plantains
½ cup flour
Pinch of salt
½ cup carbonated clear soda beverage such as Sprite or 7-up
Oil

Slice the bananas in half, lengthwise. Mix the flour and the soda into a batter, add the salt. Heat the oil, dip the bananas into the batter and fry them golden on both sides. Make enough because, as you fry them, there always tends to be someone in the kitchen who wants to "sample". Before you know it, they're gone!



Optional: stir ¼ cup of peanut butter with two tablespoons of warm water. Mix in two teaspoons of sweet soy sauce. Pour it over the baked bananas. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bara


 This recipe was first published in Dutch, the mag.

We've been on a little discovery trip through the Surinamese kitchen. One of the many things we've embraced from foreign cultures is the food. We love to eat, and we love to discover new flavors, new foods and new challenges. The Indonesian cuisine, as a colonial treasure, has been fully integrated into the Dutch culinary panorama, and for the last decade, if not more, so have the flavors of Suriname.

Baras, a deep fried savory snack with Hindustan roots, have found its way into our eating habits and into the many Surinamese food shops around the country, one wonderful bite at a time. Made from soaked urad dal (also known as split black lentils) and spices, and served with a sweet and tangy chutney, the addictive nature of this delectable donut is hard to resist.

Bara
1 cup urad dal
2 teaspoons cumin seed
2 tablespoons chopped green leaves*
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup self rising flour
Oil

Wash and soak the urad dal in two or three cups of water, and let it soak overnight. Pour off the water, rinse the lentils one more time and purée them into a smooth paste. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet until the first one pops, and then add them to the paste. Add in the chopped leaves, garlic, onion powder and the yeast and knead it all together with the flour. If the dough is too stiff, add in a tablespoon of warm water at a time.

Put the dough in a bowl, cover and let it rise for three to four hours. Heat oil to 375F. Lightly wet both hands and roll a bit of dough into a ball. Pat it flat and poke a hole in the middle. Let the bara donut slide into the hot oil and quickly fry until puffy and golden brown. Fry the rest of the baras.

This snack is best served hot. Serve with chutney.


* This is traditionally made with tayer leaves but can be substituted by fresh spinach.