Champignonragout met rijst

A couple of different ways of eating have hit the media lately. I always wonder, with these new diets or food choices, how it is going to affect those of us who like to cook traditional Dutch foods. Fortunately, many dishes translate well: with a LCHF (low carb, high fat) diet you can still enjoy your stamppots, replacing the potatoes with cauliflower, and having juicy sausages, brats or gehaktballen, meatballs. We have good soups that don't need dairy or meat to taste great, such as groentesoep.  Even our national soup, the split pea, or erwtensoep, can be made with a vegetarian choice of smoked sausage.

More and more people are choosing to reduce the amount of meat they eat: whether for health reasons, the environment, their wallet or just because they're curious about trying different recipes or ways to cook. In the Netherlands alone, a 2018 news article from the national Nutrition Center announced that almost half of the Dutch (46%) were trying to eat less meat.

Of course, our cuisine did not always feature meat so frequently as it does now: as with other kitchens around western Europe, meat was only served once or twice a week during the early beginning of the 20th century and did not become more frequent until the 1960s. In order to find something that would meet my own imposed meatless recipe challenge, I went back into the archives of magazines, newspapers and cookery books from before 1950 to find something tasty, flavorful, and easy to make for a Meatless Monday evening.

I struck gold with an article in the 1936 news bulletin of the Women's Electricity Association, the Vrouwen Electriciteits Vereniging, whose aim it was to promote the use of electricity in the household through the publication of a monthly magazine, geared towards women. It featured articles on how to use electrical appliances, how to ensure safety when using multiple outlet extenders, and articles about the many benefits and advantages of electricity in the home. The magazine featured a mushroom ragout, a savory sauce dish, that sounded like just the ticket! I updated it with a few tips and tricks, and it was delicious.

For this particular dish, I chose cremini mushrooms, but you can make it just as well with white button mushrooms, or a mixture of both. You don't have to use regular white long grain rice, as I did: brown rice, wild rice or any of the more exotic black, red or Forbidden will serve just as well. Just follow their specific cooking requirements, as they differ from each other.

Champignonragout met rijst
For the ragout:
1 lb mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil (or butter)
1 shallot, or a small red onion
2 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Thyme
10 parsley stalks
Cornstarch
Salt and pepper

For the rice:
1 cup regular long grain rice
2 cups water
Salt

If needed, rinse the mushrooms under running water (yes, you can) and slice off the little bottom of the stem if it's too dry. Slice, quarter or cut through the middle as you see fit: but not too small. You want to be able to stab the pieces with a fork.

Use a non-stick pan and heat it to medium heat. Don't add any fat to the pan, just the mushrooms. As we're not going to be using any meat-based stock to the mushrooms, we want to try and get the most "meaty" flavor out of the mushrooms as we can. Let the mushrooms toast in the dry pan, until they're golden and releasing a great flavor. If you're not comfortable with that, use a little bit of olive oil or butter (unless you are vegan) to help aid the process. Remove the mushrooms and set them aside, then add the oil to the pan, add the onion and stir until the onion is caramelized, about five minutes.

Wash the parsley, and cut the leaves from the stems. Chop the stems small and set them aside. Squeeze any water out of the parsley leaves with a paper towel and chop the leaves fine. Add the mushrooms back in the pan with the onions, pour in the stock and the bay leaf and a pinch of thyme. Add in the chopped parsley stalks. Give everything a good stir, and then turn it to low, and cover.

In the meantime, wash the rice two or three times and add it to a small sauce pan. Add the water, a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil on medium heat. Cover, turn to low and let it simmer for ten minutes, stirring once or twice to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. After ten minutes, turn off the rice an leave it covered (no peeking!) and let it sit for another ten minutes. I only do this with long grain white rice and have not tried it with other types of rice, so probably best to just follow directions on the other rices).

Taste the mushroom sauce - adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. To thicken the sauce, I sift a tablespoon of corn starch through a fine mesh strainer over the sauce while stirring. You can also dissolve the cornstarch in a little bit of cold water and stir that into the sauce to thicken it. Cornstarch is gluten-free.

Optional: a tiny splash of white wine, sherry or brandy will add additional flavor to the sauce, provided you let the alcohol cook out.

Right before serving, fluff the rice with a fork and fold in the chopped parsley leaves.

Makes enough for two as a meal serving, or four as a quick appetizer. This is also good over toast (HGHC: high gluten high carb LOL) for breakfast or brunch.






Preisoep

Growing up in the Netherlands, prei, or leeks, was the one vegetable that would show up in my grocery cart with just about every shopping trip. For one, it was a cheap vegetable to buy, and second it would flavor so many foods we made, especially as students. Thirdly, I absolutely love love LOVE prei! Leeks would feature in soups, salads, oven dishes, mashed through potatoes, or as a creamed vegetable by itself - it was filling, flavorful and most of all, affordable.

The only thing that annoyed me beyond belief was the fact that it would stick out of my shopping bag and get in the way of cycling! If you've ever ridden a bicycle in Holland with shopping bags on your stuur, you know exactly what I mean :-)

Leeks are predominantly grown in the provinces of Limburg and Noord-Brabant, as it needs a loose soil to grow best in. The vegetable is blanched as it grows taller by hilling up the soil around it - which also explains why so often leeks have sand inbetween its layers. Its flavor varies from onion-y, when raw, to downright sweet when cooked. It is very versatile vegetable!

Prei is also very healthy: it's loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals and has a slight diuretic effect. All good things, I'd say! For this wintery weather, a cup of hot leek soup with a sprinkle of smoky, crispy bacon bits might be just what you need. Best of all, it's a quick soup to make. With five ingredients, 5 minutes of prep and twenty minutes of cooking, you have a satisfying soup at your disposal.

Preisoep
1 lb floury potatoes
1 large leek
1 vegetable or chicken bouillon cube
4 cups water
8 strips bacon

Peel the potatoes and dice. Cut the root end of the leek, and remove the top dark green/blue layer. We are not going to use this today, but if you rinse, chop and freeze it, it can be used to make a great vegetable stock. Cut the white body of the leek in half, lengthwise, and slice into one inch pieces. Rinse any sand that may be hiding between the layers.

In a saucepan, add four cups of water, the potatoes and the leeks, and a pinch of salt. Add the bouillon cube to the pan, cover and bring to a boil, then turn down medium and boil for 15 minutes. In the meantime, put a skillet on the stove, add the slices of bacon and on a low fire render the fat out of the bacon so that it goes crispy.

After fifteen minutes, check to see if the potatoes are soft. If you like chunky soup, remove a couple of spoons of the vegetables, and add them back in after you've blended the rest. If you prefer it smooth, leave it in and blend the vegetables into a smooth, thick soup. Taste, and see if you need to adjust the seasoning. For a little bit of luxury, stir in one or two spoons of cream.

Drain the crispy bacon on a paper towel and cut into strips. Pour the soup into a bowl, sprinkle the bacon on top, and drizzle one or two teaspoons of bacon fat over the soup (if you want). I always like to give it a good sprinkle of freshly ground pepper, as well.

Makes four servings.





Zalmsalade

The end of the year is creeping up on us, and many of us are busy in the kitchen these days. The month of December is probably the month where we prepare most of the food ourselves: whether that's speculaas for Sinterklaas, Kerststol for Christmas or oliebollen for New Year's Eve.

New Year's Eve is an evening traditionally spent with friends and family. During the day, we're busy in the kitchen preparing snacks, soups and salads as this is usually not a day for a big meal. While listening to the Top 2000 on the radio, we cook, bake, chat, visit, Skype and WhatsApp our way to the end of the year!

One of the typical dishes during this evening are "koude schotels", cold platters: decorated platters of luxury potato salad with chunks of beef, or like today, with salmon or lobster. For one, they're easy to make and hold well in the fridge, and secondly, they feed a large group of people throughout the day. Just remember to pop it back in the fridge after serving to keep it fresh.

Today, we've made a zalmsalade, a salmon based cold salad. It's best the day before so the flavors can blend together, and then dressed and served the day of.

Zalmsalade
1 can Red or Pink Salmon (approx. 15 ounces net weight)
2 large red potatoes
1 small can peas and carrots (or mixed vegetables)
1 tablespoon capers
6 dill pickles, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
4 heaping soup spoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
Pinch of dried or fresh dill
Salt
Pepper

Drain the salmon into a sieve, and save the liquid. Remove bones and skin. Wash and cut potatoes into cubes, boil in salted water until done. Drain the peas and carrots.

Add the potatoes, the peas and carrots, the capers, the dill pickles and the celery into a bowl and stir together. Throw in a pinch of dried or fresh dill, some salt and pepper. Mix the mayonnaise with two tablespoons of the liquid from the canned salmon into a sauce and fold that into the vegetable mixture in the bowl. Taste and see if you want to adjust the seasonings. Lastly, carefully fold in the canned salmon. You want to try and keep it a bit chunky.

In a separate bowl, mix four tablespoons of mayonnaise with one tablespoon of the salmon liquid and a squirt of ketchup into a pink sauce. This will cover the salad tomorrow, and keep it moist.

Cover both and place in the fridge until ready to serve.

When you get ready to make up your platter, remove the salmon salad from the fridge. Layer a plate with lettuce leaves, and shape the salad on top, dome-like. Slather the salad with the pink sauce you made the day before, and decorate with slices of cucumber, boiled egg, fresh dill, tiny tomatoes and colorful strips of bell pepper. Serve with crackers, toast or dinner rolls.




The results are in!!

Thank you all for giving your feedback in our first ever Facebook poll! Even I was surprised that there was SO much support for creating a bilingual website - as much as 83% of you said to prefer to read the recipes and stories in both English AND Dutch.

As you can imagine, it will take a little time to rework the whole website - we have almost 300 recipes on The Dutch Table. Any new recipes will be written in both languages and with corresponding measurements, and the older ones will get translated and re-measured as we go.

In the meantime, there are a few things you could do to make sure you stay updated:

 1. Like our Facebook page, if you haven't yet, so you can see what recipes have been updated - I will post updates as we go. And please share the good news!

 2. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. We have short cinema reel news videos about Dutch food and traditions from last century, and the videos have both Dutch and English subtitles - courtesy of yours truly. it's a great way to get some insight into the times from our parents and grandparents.

 3. Join us on Instagram! We're the_dutch_table. We are not entirely sure what we're doing, or if any of you is on Instagram, but nevertheless, come take a peek - maybe you can help us figure this thing out!

Lastly, we've started to add Shopping Suggestions at the bottom of our recipes. If you are an Amazon customer, we would appreciate it if you would consider shopping through our links. We receive a small financial contribution for a portion of your purchases, which will help keep our website up and fund our research into new recipes, history and ingredients.

The website, the videos, the recipes and everything else is our labor of love, because of our passion for Dutch food and traditions - if you enjoy what we do, we'd appreciate your support!

Thank you again,
Nicole 

Itching to get back in the garden?

Are your fingers itching to get started in your garden? If you're an avid gardener like I am, you are probably already looking through your seed catalogs to see what you will grow next and can't wait to get outside.

Or maybe you've never grown a thing in your life, but are willing to give it a go. Did you know that a lot of the vegetables we use in our Dutch cuisine can be easily grown?

If you do, you are in good company. Besides growing fruits and vegetables on balconies, in back gardens and side yards, the Dutch also have almost a quarter million volkstuinen where they spend much of their time. These "gardens for the people" are usually small plots of land that are leased (often indefinitely) from either the city administration or from gardening associations who own or manage these plots of lands. The land is usually on the outskirts of the city or town. Some plots are small and can be found along railways and roads, others are larger and can even contain small huts or greenhouses. The largest volkstuin complexes even have small petting zoos, nature reserves and during the growing season, even small farmers markets.

Many families spend whole summers on their volkstuin place, if the local agreement allows. It's close to home and gezellig, as a volkstuin always has several plots with other gardeners and their families. People share crops, seeds and chats alongside short fences. I'm sure you can imagine that, if you live "third floor up, in the back" and hardly see the light of day, spending a summer outside, with trees, a splash pool, and your family around you is sheer delight!


Growing foods and flowers also creates an opportunity to make memories. It's fun to share this with kids or grandkids, and gives you an opportunity to share your heritage and family stories. If anything, you'll eat healthier foods that you have grown yourself, or grow those that are hard to come by in the store! And if you don't know how to grow anything, you can always ask your local master gardeners in your local university extension office, or that neighbor with the beautiful flowers and vegetables down the road- as gardeners, we're always happy to share information.

I've added a page, Dutch Gardening, to the website, with a short description of traditional Dutch vegetables, and links to places where you can order seeds. Take a look and see if your favorite vegetable is listed. If not, give us a holler in the comments and we'll add them!

Happy gardening!