Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lammetjespap

It's cold, dark, rainy and on top of that I'm not feeling all that hot. Well, actually I AM feeling hot, but not in a good way :-).

When kids (and not-so-kids) are feeling a bit under the weather, a comforting dish that's quickly made and often meets approval is something called "lammetjespap", lamb's porridge. Depending on where you were raised, that might either mean warm milk thickened with flour and sweetened with sugar (northern provinces). It's similar to bierpap but without the beer. Or it could be a couple of beschuiten (Dutch rusks) in warm milk with a generous serving of sugar, as they do in the southern provinces.

The beschuiten version was the one my grandma Pauline would make for me. She would break two beschuiten in a deep soup plate, sprinkle some sugar on top and pour warm milk from the stove. The dried rusks would soak up the milk, soften and turn into small, mushy pieces. I often wondered why it was called "lamb's porridge". The lumps of soaked rusk could vaguely resemble the woolly back of little lambs, I guess. Very vaguely, I realize, and surely the onset of a fever helps with the visualisation there. Maybe the name was given to the porridge because it was warm, comforting and just overall...well, woolly and cozy and warm. Just like a little lamb.

But the porridge is not just a contemporary dish. Lammetjespap was also standard on the menu for recovering TB-patients, many which were young children, during the early years of the 19th century. Prominent Frisians financed the Friesch Volkssanatorium voor Onvermogende Beginnende Borstlijders (Frisian Popular Recovery Center for Destitute Early Chest Sufferers) in an effort to halt the spreading of the contagious disease. Medication was, at that time, not yet available and because of its popular nature and low daily fee, the recovery center provided beds for the poor, but little else. The consumption patients had to recover with the help of light, air, a lot of rest and nutritious food, in this case lammetjespap.  The flour porridge (northern versions of lammetjespap consist of little more than milk, flour and sugar) was comforting, filling and delivered some nutritional value, albeit little, to the suffering ill.

Today is lammetjespap-day for me, the southern version. I'm cuddling up with a bowl, a blankie and a book. See you next week!


 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Dutch dinner party!

I love three day weekends! It gives me a little bit more time to do something extra: I sleep in a little bit longer, I pull out a recipe of two I've been wanting to try, or I kick back with a book or a magazine. But the best thing about three day weekends is that it gives me one more evening to plan something to cook. And a Dutch dinner party sounds just like the ticket!!



How about we start with an appetizer while the guests arrive? Maybe some bitterballen and diced Gouda cheese on a platter, with good mustard of course!



When people are finally seated, start with a witlofsalade, or a light soup such as groentensoep met balletjes. That's easy enough. But now comes the hard part! What vegetable are you going to serve? Boerenkool met worst is wonderful but perhaps a bit too casual? How about a traditional gehaktbal met jus, cauliflower and cute little boiled potatoes? Or hachee with mashed potatoes and rode kool met appeltjes? And don't forget those delectable slavinken!




Finish your dinner with hangop or vla, whether it's hopjes or vanillevla. And how about an appelbol, or kersenvlaai with your 8pm coffee......Sounds like a splendid evening!

What would you like to see on the menu?
 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hoornse Broeder

 
It's carnaval this weekend!! Thousands have cancelled the next couple of work days, dusted off their favorite masks, costumes or festive gear and have taken to the streets to party en masse, weather permitting, of course. Granted, the mayority of this carousal takes place "below the rivers", referring to the more southern provinces of the country, particularly Noord-Brabant and Limburg, but even up north we see evidence of carnival outings.

Not in the least outdone by the carnival-related foods of the southeners, with their nonnevotten, haringsalade, and boerenkool met worst, the northerners also have their share of carnival foods. Surprised? So was I! And apparently it's not a new trend or something they picked up in the last couple of years, but carnival has been known to be celebrated in provinces as far north as, well as far north as you can go before getting your feet wet!

Vastenavond, literally fasting evening, is the Tuesday night before the forty day fast that starts on Ash Wednesday. It was the last day that people could indulge in all that tasted good. Villages would bake sugary pastries or sausage rolls to get one more serving of all that they'd be missing out on during the Fast. That was the purpose of some traditional foods back then, nowadays they more often serve to provide a good buffer for all the drinking that may occur.

Brabant has its worstenbroodjes, Limburg has its nonnevotten, that's practically common knowledge. But reading up on festive dishes, it turns out that Hilversum, in the province of Noord-Holland, bakes schuitbollen (or at least used to), Harlingen has Festeljoun brea (vastenavond bread), and in Borculo they eat haspels. 

Today's breadcake comes from Hoorn, in the region of West-Frisia, in the province of North-Holland. It is a heavy bread, with plenty of raisins and currants and a center of melted brown sugar. Sometimes slices of bacon would be added to the syrupy middle. The Broeder was traditionally baked on a petroleum stove, on low heat, in a heavy pan with a tablespoon of oil and flipped halfway through.

Nowadays it can be done either in a cast iron pan on the stove, in a spring form in the oven or just free form on a baking sheet. Traditionally served with carnaval, but also often presented as a gift to a new mother, the Hoornse broeder is now available year-round.

Hoornse Broeder
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 egg
Pinch of salt
1 cup mixed golden and dark raisins
1/4 cup currants

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup brown sugar
Cinnamon (optional)
1 tablespoon butter

Mix the flour, milk, yeast, egg and salt into a kneadable dough. Cover and let it rest and rise until doubled in size. Punch it down, roll it out and knead the raisins and currants into the dough. Cut in half, roll into balls and cover for ten minutes.

Use a rolling pin to flatten each ball of dough into a circle. Add a cup of brown sugar on top of one, leaving about an inch of dough uncovered. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired. Dot the sugar with the butter, and place the second circle of dough on top. Press down the sides so that they stick together, you may want to brush the dough with a little bit of water if needed.

Heat a cast iron pan and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Place the broeder in the pan, cover with the lid and bake on low on the stove (or bake in the oven at 350F). After thirty minutes, check and turnover so that the other side gets baked (don't need to do that in the oven).

Cut and serve while warm so the butter and brown sugar are still gooey and syrupy, or wait till the whole bread has cooled down. The sugar will go back to being slightly crumbly and create a layer of goodness between the two breads. I prefer mine warm and runny, so there is hardly any filling visible in the picture.

 
 
Broeder is usually not served with powdered sugar on top, in case you noticed.......I got distracted and the top colored much darker than I wanted to! Oops!
 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Spruitjes

 
"Spruitjes? Vies!" ("Brussels sprouts? Gross!") is Dutch for what most children would say if they heard that Brussels sprouts were on the menu. Quite often, when asked what the evening dish entails, the Dutch will answer by simply stating the vegetable. It is generally understood that boiled or mashed potatoes are part of the deal and traditionally, a certain type of meat is expected to go with a particular dish. So by learning what vegetable will be served, the whole menu will usually be crystal clear. Tonight's dinner therefore consists of spruitjes, boiled potatoes and fresh sausage, or braadworst.

But back to the spruitjes. Possibly a child's least favorite vegetable because of the bitterness (and the similarity to rock hard green marbles?), spruitjes however are a staple on the Dutch table. Whether simply boiled, or mashed into a stamppot, they are often found on the menu during the winter months. Brussels sprouts, just like other cabbages, will often benefit from a bit of frost, where the starches will convert to sweet sugars.

Nowadays, however, Brussels sprouts have been modified to taste less bitter. Although the flavor has changed, the nutritional value of these little green globes has remained: a very valuable source of vitamin B and C. Just what you need in the winter!

Spruitjes can be steamed, boiled or stir-fried.

Spruitjes
1 lb Brussels sprouts
6 large potatoes
4 fresh sausages
2 tablespoons butter
Salt
Nutmeg

Clean the sprouts by cutting off the bottom and removing outer leaves, if damaged or heavily soiled. Peel the potatoes, cut in half and bring them to a boil. In a separate pot, bring water to a boil, add the sprouts, add some salt and boil on low for ten minutes. Drain, melt one tablespoon of butter in a skillet and slowly braise the vegetables, covered, until they're done. In the meantime, melt the rest of the butter in a skillet, fry the sausages until brown on each side, then add half a cup of water, cover and simmer. Drain the potatoes.

Serve the potatoes with the sausage and the sprouts. Put a pinch of nutmeg on the sprouts and pour a tablespoon of pan gravy over the potatoes, in case you wish to prak them.