Friday, December 19, 2014

Bisschopswijn

Sometimes, when it's really cold outside and you need a serious boost of warmth, a cup of coffee will simply not do. Those days that a frosty winter wind chills you to the bone, little to nothing will satisfy the need for heat, unless it's a glass of steaming, sweet and spicy mulled wine.

The Netherlands, as many other Northern countries, has its own version of a warming, citrus and spice flavored wine drink. It's perfect for warming up after spending a blistery cold afternoon skating on the canals! The concept of hot wine is thought to have been introduced by the Romans, who already heated wine for drinking as early as the 2nd century. During their travels, they brought their beverages with them, and the rest as they say is history. Virtually every country that has access to wine and cold weather has some variety of mulled wine, as can be seen here. Each country used particular fruits and spices: the Scandinavian countries for example often add cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger: three flavors that are also readily found in their baked goods.

The Dutch call their mulled wine bisschopswijn, or bishop's wine. It is a sweet red or white wine, flavored with citrus (but oranges only), cloves, star anise and cinnamon. The warm wine is predominantly consumed during those early days of December, when that other bishop, Sint Nicolaas, is in the country. According to this news reel of 1952, Sinterklaas is quite fond of the sweet concoction himself!

Nevertheless, don't let the time frame hold you back. Bisschopswijn can be enjoyed any day of the year that you need a quick, comforting and warming drink!

Bisschopswijn
1 bottle of sweet wine (red or white)
1 orange
3 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise pods
5 whole cloves
Sugar or honey (optional)

Add the red wine to a small saucepan on the stove, and add the cinnamon sticks and anise pods. Cut the orange in half lengthwise and stud one half with the cloves. Cut the other half in even slices. Add everything to the pan, and let it simmer for thirty minutes. Don't allow it to come up to a boil as the alcohol will evaporate - a large warming feature of this mulled wine is the fact that the alcohol content is preserved.

Taste and adjust the sweetness, if needed, with sugar or honey. You can add some hot water if the wine is too strong, or substitute half of the wine with cranberry or pomegranate juice for a lower alcohol level. Using only juice in combination with the fruit and the spices makes it a child-friendly drink. Serve warm or hot!





Monday, December 15, 2014

Amandelbroodjes

The month of December could just as well be called "almond month". It's when specialties such as gevulde speculaas, banketletter, banketstaaf, and kerststol show up in bakeries and cafés, and at coffee time with friends or family. For many, these Dutch pastries and breads signify the welcome arrival of the winter festivities, such as Sinterklaas and Christmas.

These baked goods all have almonds in common: they're filled with the sweet, slightly sticky substance called "amandelspijs" or almond paste, that is so loved by many. Almonds have been part of our baking history for many centuries: the earliest Middle Dutch cookbook "Wel ende edelike spijse" already mentions a variety of almond dishes, such as almond butter and almond bread porridge. It seems that we developed a sweet tooth and a craving for almonds early on!

Today's pastries are called "amandelbroodjes". These almond filled treats used to be so popular that a Protestant church in The Hague sold them by the thousands to finance their new chapel! Its name literally translates to "almond rolls", but they're hardly rolls. They're more like the apple turnovers, or appelflappen, that we're familiar with. The good thing is that they're easy to make, and quick to bake. The bad news is that they'll disappear in no time, as they are absolutely delectable. It's hard to deny yourself the pleasure of biting into a warm piece of banket!

Amandelbroodjes
8 oz* slivered almonds
8 oz* sugar
1 teaspoon almond essence
1 large egg
Zest of 1/2 lemon

8 squares of puff pastry

1/4 cup coarse sugar

Add the almonds, the 8 oz of sugar, the almond essence, one large egg and the lemon zest to a food processor, and pulse repeatedly until the paste comes together. It should be sticky but stiff, and you should still be able to see itty-bitty pieces of almond and sugar crystals.

Preheat the oven to 385F. Take 2 oz of the almond paste and roll it into a small log. Wet the puff pastry with a  little bit of water, and place the log slightly to the right of the middle (see picture above). Fold the dough over so that the long ends meet, and pinch the dough together or use a small fork to push the tines into the dough and sealing it. Brush a little bit of water on the top of the turnover and dip it into the coarse sugar.

When all turnovers have been filled and folded, you can place them in the fridge until you are ready to bake. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat and cover with plastic so they don't dry out. You can wrap and freeze any leftover spijs.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and puffy. No worries if they look too big, the dough will slightly collapse as it cools!

Almond paste gets really, really hot, so don't bite into a hot amandelbroodje just yet.....let it cool until warm to the touch - that's when they're at their best!





* Volume ounces are different than weight ounces. A full measuring cup of 8 volume ounces does not necessarily equal 8 weight ounces: imagine the difference between a cup of feathers and a cup of lead! The ounces for this recipe are by weight, not by volume.  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Koffie Verkeerd

The enjoyment of coffee drinking is nothing new to the Dutch. Public coffee houses, where the caffeine-laden beverage could be enjoyed, have been part of the city landscapes since the early seventeenth century. Traditionally, only men visited these koffiehuizen, to talk about politics, read newspapers, smoke pipe tobacco and do business while drinking cups of hot, steaming coffee. Women seldom, if at all, entered these public houses, and preferred to consume coffee and tea at home.

Slowly but surely, coffee became an integral part of the day as it was served with breakfast, then with lunch, and as the integration of the black beverage solidified over the years throughout all layers of society, coffee was also served with dinner at six, and again at 8pm. The country became a coffee-loving nation, which it is to this day. According to The Atlantic magazine, the Netherlands is the world's most-coffee-drinking nation, with an average of 2.4 cups a day.

But 2.4 doesn't sound like all that much, to tell you the truth. On average, we consume four to five cups a day (one cup at breakfast, another one at work around 10:30, possibly a third one to wrap up lunch time or at 2:30pm as a pick-me-up with a cookie or a koekje, maybe a cup with dinner, and another cup at 8pm). On those days that the buurvrouw comes over, you drink at least two or three cups, while you visit and talk about well...the other neighbors, I guess. With an average of 2.4 cups, either people have stopped visiting or somebody's not pulling their weight back home!

The persistent rumor that the Dutch are so stingy that they will only offer a single cookie with coffee is one that is hard to kill, but so very untrue. Nine out of 10 Dutch people insist that serving coffee without cookies is just "not done": the cookie is part of the coffee drinking experience. This explains why, when ordering coffee at a café, one usually gets a cookie or little piece of chocolate with the order. And since, especially in company, the Dutch will seldom only consume one cup of coffee (that's just not gezellig!), it is very doubtful that a second cookie is not offered with a follow-up cup.

Koffie verkeerd, or "wrong coffee", is a typical Dutch way of consuming coffee: half automatic drip coffee and half warm milk. It's called "wrong" because traditionally coffee only contains a "wolkje", a small cloud, of milk.

Koffie Verkeerd
4 oz strong drip coffee, hot
4 oz milk
Sugar as desired

Warm the milk to the point of boiling, and add to the hot coffee in the cup. Stir. Serve. With a cookie. Or better, make it two!



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Appelkruimelvlaai

It's not quite fall yet, but our local orchard is already announcing the ripeness of their first apples. We pick varieties as they ripen, so towards the end of the month, we always end up with a couple of apples of each flavor. Some are sweet, some are tart, some hold up well in the oven and others become jammy and tender. I don't mind as it's a perfect mix for apple pie!  

Vlaai, a broad and flat yeast dough pie, is originally from the province of Limburg. During the weekly bread baking duties, women would often flatten out a piece of leftover bread dough and cover it with slices of fresh fruit or a ladle of sweet jam, so that they had something to eat with their coffee (and you know how much we like our coffee time!). When the bread baking was delegated to the village baker, who baked and brought it to the house, vlaaien would only be baked for Sunday visits, during village fairs and for the holidays. 

Baking vlaai on Sunday is still a bit of a tradition in the South, and a piece of warm vlaai straight out of the oven is often eaten for lunch, with a cup of coffee or two. Depending on what fruit is seasonal and ripe, you could get apple vlaai, cherry vlaai or plum vlaai. If there was no fruit to be had, or it was a special occasion, sometimes you'd get kruimelvlaai, a sweet custardy vlaai with crunchy streusel on top. 

Today's vlaai, appelkruimelvlaai, or apple crumble vlaai, is similar to the Dutch apple pie that many are familiar with, albeit it with less sugar. The natural flavor of the apple is allowed to shine through, and because you only bake it for 25 to 30 minutes, some of the apple still has a bit of a bite. Fantastic!

The vlaai dough is easy to make. The average vlaai pan is 11 inches wide and a little over 1 inch high, but any size will do,  so don't let that hold you back!

Appelkruimelvlaai
For the dough
1 1/2 cup AP flour
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
1/3 cup milk, warm
1 small egg
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk, and let it proof while you measure out the rest of the ingredients. Add the flour to a mixing bowl, sprinkle the sugar on top and give it a stir. Now pour the milk with the yeast on top and start mixing. As the dough comes together, add in the egg and a bit later the salt. Add the soft butter and let the whole mixture come together while you need it into a soft dough. (You may need to add a tablespoon or two of milk in case the dough turns out to be a bit dry).

Form the dough into a ball, put it in a bowl, cover and let it rise. In the meantime, make the filling.

For the filling*
4 to 5 large apples, various flavors
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons panko

Peel and core the apples, then cut into dice. Slices are okay too, but for this pie I like the cubes, they add a bit of texture. Toss the apples with the lemon juice, the sugar, cinnamon and the cornstarch. Keep the panko aside until you are ready to assemble the vlaai.

Grease your pie pan, or vlaaivorm, and roll out the dough into a large circle. Transfer it to the pan, and cut off any excess dough you may have. Poke holes in the dough so that it doesn't seize up while baking, cover and let it rest while you make the kruimeltopping.

For the topping
1 cup AP flour
1 stick butter, cold
1/2 cup sugar

Cut the butter into small pieces. Mix the flour and the sugar in a bowl, and rub the butter between your fingers in the flour. I tend to put flour and butter between the palms of my hands and rub them together (no patience!) until the mixture resembles wet sand.

Heat your oven to 400F. Sprinkle the panko on top of the dough (this prevents too much juice going into the dough and making it soggy). Pour the apple mixture on top of the vlaai dough, flatten it out a bit and then top with the crumble. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, and check to see if your kruimeltopping is browning. If it's not already golden, give it five more minutes and then finish it under the broiler for a nice golden color. Do not walk away at this point, these broilers are fast!!

Let the vlaai cool so that the filling can settle, cut into generous pieces and enjoy it by itself, with a dollop of whipped cream or a la mode, with a big scoop of ice cream.




*If you would like, you can add raisins, currants, boerenjongens or boerenmeisjes to the filling.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Kersenstruif


Kersen, or cherries, are grown abundantly in the Netherlands. Old-fashioned varieties with fun and mysterious names such as Mierlose Zwarte, Udense Spaanse, Meikersen, Dikke Loenen, Pater van Mansveld and Morellen (pie cherries) can be found in fruit-rich areas such as Limburg, De Betuwe or the Kromme Rijnstreek, close to Utrecht. During the eighties and nineties, many of the cherry orchards were eradicated because of urban development, but in the last several years, a new movement to bring back some of the old-fashioned varieties is quite successful.

Until the 1970's, the small village of Mierlo in the province of Brabant was THE place for all cherry lovers to travel to during the season. Because of its calcium-rich soil, the Mierlose Zwarte, the black cherry of Mierlo, was a favorite indulgence, popular because of its particular flavor and sweetness. It was also the cherry of choice to bake kersenstruif with, cherry pancakes, a traditional dish during the short cherry season. People would beg, bargain or steal to make sure they obtained a pound or two of the harvest so that they did not have to miss out on this treat!

The Mierlose Zwarte also suffered from the urban sprawl and during these last thirty years, production was minimal. Fortunately, growers like the Van Der Linden family at the Kersenboerderij kept a small part of the orchard with original trees, and are currently very successful in grafting and expanding this heirloom orchard.

The season for Dutch cherries is short, starting around June 1st, and barely making it to mid-July. Cherries are best eaten fresh, and are most often consumed that way by the Dutch. It is therefore not surprising that there are only a few recipes that involve cherries in a different fashion: kersenvlaai (cherry pie), kersenpap (cherry porridge) and today's recipe, kersenstruif. These recipes work best with slightly overripe, dark, sweet cherries. Since we don't have access to the Mierlose Zwarte, the Bing cherry is a usable substitute.

I read somewhere that, traditionally, people left the pits in the cherries for this dish: I am unsure as to how this would contribute to a better flavor, and can only imagine what harm it may cause. Therefore, I highly recommend pitting and halving the cherries before you add them to the pan! 

Kersenstruif
Four cups pitted and halved sweet, dark Bing cherries
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour*
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
Pinch of salt
Butter

Beat the flour, sugar, vanilla, eggs with one cup of milk and the pinch of salt, until you have a silky smooth batter. Stand for ten minutes, covered. If the batter thickens, add a little bit more milk, a tablespoon at a time.

Melt a little bit of butter in your favorite non-stick pan or on your pancake skillet. Distribute half a cup of pitted cherries on the melted, then pour approximately a fourth of a cup of batter over the cherries. Bake at medium heat until the pancake bubbles up and starts to dry on top. Use a large spatula to flip the cherry pancake and continue to bake it on the other side.

Serve with powdered sugar. Makes approximately 8 pancakes.



* if you don't have self-rising flour, add a scant tablespoon of baking powder to all-purpose flour, or two teaspoons of active dry yeast. If you use yeast, warm the milk to 110F, and allow the batter to sit for twenty minutes, then stir it down.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Aardbeienjam

Strawberries, or aardbeien, are a welcome sign in early summer. The moment the first crate of these zomerkoninkjes (called King of Summer because of its little green crown) hit the market, you'll see strawberries in everything: on beschuit, on fresh fruit tarts, or on slices of fresh, white, buttered bread if you're lucky!

The actual natural strawberry season only lasts for a good five to six weeks, from early June until mid July, but the Netherlands is able to produce about 20 million pounds a year because of their ingenious greenhouse and plastic tunnel systems. It keeps us in strawberries practically year round, except for the first two months of the year, when the runners are being refrigerated for up to 10 weeks before being put in the soil. The strawberry that is most popular in Holland is the Elsanta variety.

It goes without saying that strawberries freshly picked in the field, that are still a little warm from the sun, are hands-down the best for eating fresh. So if you're growing your own, or have the chance to get your hands on some, enjoy them while you can! If you are not able to get around to eating all of them immediately, but don't want them to go to waste, making a quick jam* is a second option.

If you find yourself in the country during this time of year, you may enjoy visiting Het Aardbeienland, a small theme park in Limburg. Its main focus is, you guessed it, strawberries! There is plenty of opportunity to pick your own, learn about new and heirloom varieties, have the kids play in the playground or walk around the Strawberry Forest.

Aardbeienjam
1 lb strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon pectin powder

Add the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and water to a small saucepan. Bring the pan up to heat, and let the mixture simmer for about twenty minutes, on low, until the fruit is soft. Mash with a fork or potato masher. Stir in the pectin, bring up to a boil and stir for a whole minute, then take off the stove and let it cool. Pour the jam in a clean container and refrigerate*. Eat within two weeks.

*This jam is meant for quick consumption and is not to be stored outside of the fridge, or for a long period of time. If you wish to omit the pectin powder, just continue to simmer the jam until it's thick. If you wish to preserve the jam for shelf, or long life holding, please follow canning instructions for your area (depends on high altitude) and from an approved source: either your local Extension office or here. If the jam shows any sign of spoilage (mold, acetone smell) please discard the jam immediately. Food safety is key: it's not worth sacrificing a couple of dollars or your family's health for. I will be doing a proper canning article later in the year. 





Monday, June 23, 2014

World Cup of Food!

Are you stuck to the television set? The World Cup is in full swing, and so far it's been an amazing display of soccer skills. Our team Orange is doing quite well, and is in the middle of their third game. Let's hope the boys make it to the finals!

In the meantime, all these countries have me curious about what they eat. For us, it's clear: Bitterballen are the perfect snack to enjoy during a game. But what about all these other peeps? Check out the World Cup of Food infographic (click here for recipes) that HyperHolidayMarket produced!

Have a great rest of the Cup! Hup Holland Hup!





Sunday, June 15, 2014

Broodje Gezond


What a busy summer! We're gardening, pulling weeds, and trying to watch the World Cup all at the same time. With all these activities, it's often too late to cook, or too hot, or I am just too busy. Perfect occasion for that all-time favorite cold sandwich; the broodje gezond ! It's apparent that we love our fruits and vegetables, whether we grow them ourselves or not. Apart from being the main focus of our hot meals (when Dutch kids ask what's for dinner, the answer will be whatever vegetable is served that night!), we also love to add them to our sandwiches. The Dutch love their bread, and two out of the three meals a day consists of those lovely carbs.

A real summer treat is fresh sliced aardbeien, strawberries, on buttered slices of white bread, with a sprinkling of sugar on top! My mom would have those ready for us when we came out of school, with a cup of tea. Another way to get your five-a-day is to slice some fresh cucumber, apple or banana on a peanut butter sandwich (with or without sambal), sliced radishes on rye bread with cream cheese, and pineapple on your tosti. Every family just about has their own favorite combinations!

One of the best ways to get your veggie sandwich in, is by ordering, or making your own, broodje gezond. This literally translates as "healthy roll" or "healthy sandwich", and is one of the most popular choices for a bite on-the-go. These lunch broodjes are often made with white or whole wheat rolls, and are filled with ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, boiled egg and cucumber slices. If you’re up for it, you can bake your own multigrain rolls, or get some tasty crunchy rolls from your bakery.

Best of all, these sandwiches are easy to make, are filling, and leave you with plenty of time to do other things: gardening, pulling weeds, watching the World Cup...

Broodje Gezond:

Slice a roll in half and butter both sides (leave the mayo for the fries, Dutch bread gets butter!).
Layer lettuce, tomato, cheese and/or ham, boiled egg and cucumber on the bottom roll.
Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the toppings if desired.
Cover with buttered top.
Bite. Chew. Marvel. Repeat :-).

Have a great summer!!!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Meergranenbroodjes

Bread plays an important role in Dutch food. Holland, or the Netherlands, is one of the largest bread consumers of Europe, purchasing about 120 lbs of this fantastic fare per year. Many a tourist, when stepping inside a Dutch bakery, grocery store or sandwich shop, is surprised by the large amount of bread varieties and toppings to choose from. But for a country where two out of three meals mainly consist of bread and bread toppings, the variety is not so much an option as a necessity. 

These two meals (usually breakfast and lunch, although some families will eat a warm lunch and consume their second bread meal at dinner time) will generally contain a variety of breads, with white and whole grain breads as the most common choices at the table. This is not by accident.....bread meals tend to consist of two servings: a slice of bread with a savory topping such as cheese or cold cuts is eaten first, the second serving usually consists of a sweet spread, and finishes the meal, so to say. Besides the standard sliced white or brown (i.e. whole wheat) loaf, a large selection of rolls, luxury breads and crispier options such as beschuit and knäckebröd is also available. 

The Dutch are well-known for their large variety of breads: all variations of wheat are represented, the whole gamut from white to whole wheat, rye, malt and sourdough. Ancient grains such as spelt and emmer have made a fabulous comeback. And not many countries have as many bread toppings as the Dutch do, ranging from sweet to savory and just about everything in between, which makes eating a bread meal interesting and tasty! Where else but in Holland can you put chocoladehagel, chocolate sprinkles, on your bread without anybody raising an eyebrow?!  

Beside white rolls and Dutch crunch, a popular roll is the multigrain roll, or the meergranenbroodjes. A favorite choice for weekend brunches, these rolls are usually eaten with savory toppings, such as cheese or ham. They are also a favorite for that other ubiquitous sandwich, the broodje gezond, the healthy sandwich. 

Meergranenbroodjes
2 tablespoons of barley malt syrup
1 ½ cup warm water
3 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup of bread flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 cup  rye flour
½ cup barley flour
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons flax seed
2 tablespoons rolled oats
2 teaspoon salt

Topping
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon rolled oats
2 tablespoons flax seed

Dissolve the two tablespoons of barley malt syrup in the warm water, and sprinkle the yeast on top to proof. While you wait, mix the different flours together with the seeds and the salt. When the yeast has proofed, stir it into the flour and mix until the dough comes together, then knead for a good five to six minutes to develop the gluten. Round the dough into a ball, rest in a greased bowl and cover. Allow to rise at room temperature until double its size, approximately 40 minutes.

Punch down the dough and roll back into a ball. Dust the counter with a little bit of flour and relax the dough, covered, for about ten minutes. In the meantime, put parchment paper or a silicone mat on a baking sheet, and mix the seeds for the topping. Place them in a shallow plate. Carefully roll the dough into a circle, about seven inches wide. Use a dough cutter or a sharp knife to divide the dough into 8 wedges, much like a pie. Brush the top of each wedge with a little bit of water, then dip the wet top into the seeds. Repeat with each wedge. Lay the rolls on the baking sheet, with enough space to expand. Cover and let rise for thirty minutes.

Heat the oven to 425F. Bake the rolls for 20 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 195F.

Makes 8 rolls.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Spotted!

Every now and then I spend some time seeing who visits the website of The Dutch Table, and how they found us. I love the fact that so many are interested in Dutch Food and so willing to write about it, cook it and share their stories. Most of all, I am grateful that you list the source! I am only too happy to return the favor.

The last couple of weeks, we had people visit The Dutch Table through the links posted on these websites: take some time to visit the blogs, forums and read people's stories. We are all connected through our wonderful Dutch food!


Now tell me, how amazing is that! Give these folks a round of applause, they know what good food is all about! :-)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nicole


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Zalmtaart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes 8 slices. 



Monday, March 3, 2014

It's that time of the year again!




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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks!!
Nicole

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Joodse Boterkoek

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

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

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

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

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

1 egg for brushing

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

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

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



Monday, February 17, 2014

Wentelteefjes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sprinkle with powdered or regular sugar and plenty of cinnamon!


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Botersprits

The first time you eat a botersprits, you wonder where this cookie has been all your life. The soft crumb, the sweet taste, the undeniable flavor of quality butter, sweet sugar and freshly zested lemon peel or vanilla make for an amazing combination. Sometimes spritsen come with an edge of dark chocolate, sometimes they present themselves in all their simple glory. But they're hard to forget.

Good spritsen, that is, are hard to forget. Unfortunately bad ones are too. They continue to linger on the brain as well as on your taste buds. Those are the ones made with margarine, or sweeteners, or cheap chocolate. These imitators leave an odd taste in the mouth, a funky layer on your teeth and don't do the sprits any justice. Oddly enough, these sprits simulators are mostly baked commercially and are sold in large amounts from supermarkets, grocery stores and *gasp* even professional bakeries! 

That's why it's so surprising that so few people bake their own sprits (originally a German cookie that is piped or pressed, gespritzt) at home. The ingredients are few, but should be of top quality. The dough is easily put together and the cookies bake in less than twenty minutes. Enough time to brew a fresh batch of coffee or boil water for tea, take the mugs out of the cupboard and invite the neighbor lady over. In the old days you could just knock on the wall and she'd know the coffee is ready, but with all these modern insulation techniques that is a thing of the past. 

It's easiest to pipe the cookie dough through a star-shaped tip, but ultimately, it doesn't matter much what shape or size you give it. Just make them all the same size and height so that they can bake off at the same time. 
 
Utrechtse Sprits
2 sticks quality butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose or cake flour
2 teaspoons lemon zest (optional)

Cream the butter and the sugar into a pale, fluffy mass. Add the salt, stir once or twice, then add the whole egg and stir it with the paddle or by hand until the egg has been fully incorporated. Now mix in the vanilla extract. Sift the flour and divide it in two halves: add one half at a time to the butter and stir until it's absorbed. At this point you can stir in the lemon zest if you'd like. 

Transfer the soft dough to a piping bag outfitted with a large star tip. Pipe the dough moving left to right on parchment paper, or pipe individual cookies. Just make sure they're approximately the same height and volume, so they can bake at the same time. .

Heat the oven to 350F. Place the parchment paper on a baking sheet and place it in the hot oven. They should turn color in about fifteen minutes, and are ready as soon as the edges start to color golden. If you baked long strips, you can cut these in individual portions (approx 3 or 4 inches) immediately when the cookies come out of the oven. Let them cool while you brew some fresh coffee or tea, and look forward to enjoying the fruits of your labor!


Tip: draw two pencil lines on parchment paper, parallel to each other with a distance of 2 1/2 inches apart. Pipe the cookie dough in between these two lines, as seen in the picture. It will help to maintain similar size. 



Sunday, January 5, 2014

Draadjesvlees

If you're anything like me, you're glad the holidays are over. Don't get me wrong, it's great to celebrate with good food and family and friends. It's fun to decorate the house, open presents, hide other ones, do some cooking, some baking.....and lots and lots of eating. It's such a wonderful, special time, and I love it! But I'm also glad when I can put the tree away, pick up the last of the holiday decorations and get back to down-to-earth-and-honest-cooking. You know, good old fashioned Dutch food. This week's recipe is perfect for the crock pot, or slow cooker. What better to get dinner started while you're cleaning house, catching up on mail or plain simply take a snooze!

 Draadjesvlees, or literally "meat cooked to threads" is one of Holland's favorite meats. It's generally a cheaper cut of beef, braised for several hours, to the point where it is tender, flavorful and easily shreds to savory strands. It's similar to hachée, but without that many onions, and it's a great dish for these colder temperatures. As it sudders (braises) on the stove, the kitchen will fill up with a lovely, wonderful, sweet smell, and makes the evening so much more gezellig...

As you may have noticed, certain vegetables are usually combined with a particular cut or type of meat, and rode kool met appeltjes, red cabbage with apples, seems to be the favorite partner for today's recipe, with green beans being a close second. But one thing you will most definitely need is some type of starch to sop up all the lovely gravy that comes with this dish: usually only boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes will do! 

Draadjesvlees is Dutch comfort food at its best. There is even a Draadjesvlees society


Draadjesvlees
2 lbs of chuck roast, thick sliced
1 tablespoon of butter
1 large onion, peeled and sliced thin
1 tablespoon of flour
4 cups of homemade beef stock*
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, dust the beef with flour and quickly brown it in the pan. Add the onions and stir in with the beef until the onions are translucent. Add four coups of beef stock), stir and add 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 peppercorns, 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, fish out the peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves and juniper berries and 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 rode kool, red cabbage. 

*or four cups of water and 1 beef bouillon cube