Appelbeignets (2 recipes)

Sometimes, things just don´t go as planned. I know, I of those ¨"such is life" things... But I had really planned on making sugary snowballs tonight. Snowballs are made of a light choux dough, fried in oil, then filled with whipped cream and dusted with powdered sugar. Yep, a real carb killer, but what a great way to wrap up the old year with something that has at least two out of the five funky food groups (i.e. fat and sugar)!

I started late and a little hurried, couldn´t get the right consistency and the snowballs turned out to be little golf balls instead. Very dark brown with a raw center, yuk!!! So after another batch and still getting the same results, I decided that it was too late for snowballs and too late for oliebollen (the yeast dough has to sit and rise for a while). Hurray for never-fail-favorites, because I made appelbeignets instead and they were fabulous, as always. They´re apple slices, dipped in batter, then fried in oil. Technically not a donut at all, but the cored apple slices do give it a donut-esque appearance.

This kind is perfect if you're consuming them fairly quickly, the day or evening of, as the batter does tend to do a bit soft after the appelbeignet sits for a while. But sometimes you need them to last longer - you may want to take them to work, share with neighbors or friends, or you don't want to spend the whole day in the kitchen smelling like fryer oil. In that case, scroll down to method number 2, the puff pastry appelbeignet! This kind will hold up overnight and keep crisp and flaky.

It´s hard to mess up an appelbeignet. The apple brings some lightness, albeit subtle, to the oily coating and adds a pleasant sweetness. Any good baking apple will work (Jonagolds, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady etc) except for the Granny Smith: too tangy, too juicy and it doesn't hold up well. I used Golden Delicious for this recipe. The recipe below is enough for 10 appelbeignets.

Appelbeignets (Batter)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
2 apples, peeled (optional) and cored
1/4 cup all purpose flour (30 gr.)
1/4 cup milk (60 ml)
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Slice the apples in rings, about 1/4 inch thick. Stir the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the apple slices. Set aside. Mix the flour, milk, egg, baking powder and salt together for a batter. Use a little bit more milk if the batter is too thick. Put the slices in the batter and coat them on both sides, then drop each slice of apple carefully into the hot oil (190C/375F).

Turn over when they're golden brown on one side and fry the other side, remove when both sides are done. That should not take long - a couple of minutes at best. Drain on a paper towel to capture the excess oil and transfer to a new plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and eat while warm.

This batter is a very neutral one and can be used for a variety of fruits. Try bananas (cut a small banana in half lengthwise and then each part in half), pineapple rings (drain on a paper towel before adding to the batter) or add some cinnamon or flavoring to the batter itself. There is no sugar in the batter to avoid excessive and premature browning.

Appelbeignets (Puff Pastry)
10 squares puff pastry (5x5 inches)
4 medium sized apples
2 tablespoons sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

Lay out the puff pastry squares on a baking sheet or cutting board so they can thaw, while you peel and core the apples.

Slice the apples into thick slices, about 3/4 inch or so. Brush down a puff pastry square with a little bit of water (just barely moisten it), lay the apple slice in the middle and top with another square. Use your fingers to press down the top around the apple, then cut it with a cutter, or a cup or bowl that fits around the apple, leaving a little bit of space between the apple and the edge.

Heat the oil to 375F/190C and fry the apple beignets for 7 minutes, 3.5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Let them cool on a rack. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, and dip both sides of the beignet in the cinnamon sugar before serving. 

Alternatively, you can also bake them in the oven. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle the top only with the sugar and cinnamon before baking for about fifteen minutes approx.  Check product instructions for oven temperature recommendations, or bake at 200C/400F.

P.S. You can also use pineapple rings (let dry on paper towel before).

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Tired of cooking large meals? Can´t fathom having to do another pig-out on New Year´s Eve? No worries! This quick, savory, easy cabbage soup will allow you to put your feet up for a bit, have a hearty bite to eat and save some space for all that lovely food that will be coming your way until the end of the year.

Green cabbage, or savooiekool (savoy cabbage) is the Dutch green cabbage of choice. Its flavor is pleasantly cabbag-ey, but not overly heavy, and the leaves maintain a pleasant crunch after a quick boil. This brassica pairs nicely with pork and bacon and does best in a broth or a stamppot.

Save some French bread or a thicker loaf to toast and add to this soup. Select a nice, flavorful cheese to melt on the toasted bread. With this addition, the soup can be served as a meal.

1 small savoy cabbage, washed and cut in narrow strips
1 cup of diced salty pork (or 4 strips of bacon, in strips)
1 medium onion, sliced
6 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon of caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
Splash of white wine (optional)
4 slices of bread
1 cup of grated cheese

Fry the salty pork or bacon crispy in a Dutch oven. Add the onion slices and stir until they are golden, about five minutes. Add the cabbage and stir until it´s slightly wilted, then add the broth and the spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer for a good twenty minutes. Add the splash of white wine if you want. Taste and adjust salt.

Put the cheese on the slices of bread and quickly melt the cheese under a broiler. Place a piece of bread in a deep plate or soup mug, pour the soup over it and enjoy!


Kerstkransjes, or cookie Christmas wreaths, are a typical sight in Dutch Christmas trees. Sprinkled with sugar, decorated with slivered almonds, round, scalloped, chocolate,...they come in a variety of shapes and flavors, but always with a little hole in the middle so you can tie it to a branch of the tree.

Most often they are part of the initial decorations in the tree as soon as it´s set up, but will be eaten slowly and sneakily by the kids, the husband or the family dog, who then feign utter dismay and surprise when the whole tree is empty and all you find is naked ribbons on the branches. It's all part of the tradition, and it's best to be prepared! Smart moms usually have several packages at hand to replace the empty spots in the tree, but ever smarter moms (or dads, or anybody else for that matter) bake their own!

The recipe is as simple as can be, and would be a fun project to do with kids or friends on these cold, blistery days. I´m posting a simple, straightforward recipe but you may consider making it your own. Sprinkle with colored sugar, add some chocolate or cinnamon to the recipe, or you might even dip the cookies in chocolate before hanging them in the tree. Just make sure you hang the chocolate ones higher up in the tree so Fido can´t get a nibble, since chocolate is not good for dogs...

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, cold and diced
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (or 2 teaspoons vanilla essence)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten

Mix the flour with the salt, the sugar and the baking powder. Carefully knead in the cold butter, then add in the vanilla, lemon zest and milk. If the mixture is too dry, add in one tablespoon of cold milk at a time. Knead everything into a pliable dough, wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for an hour, to let the flavors blend.

Roll the dough out on a lightly flour dusted counter, to about a quarter inch, or half a centimeter thick, thicker if you like chewy, thinner if you like crisp cookies. Preheat the oven to 350F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Use a drinking glass, or a cookie cutter of any shape, to cut out the cookies. Use the end of an apple corer or a large straw to poke a hole in the middle of the dough. When all cookies are cut and cored, place them on the parchment paper, brush them with egg and sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, sliced almonds or colored sugar on top. Bake on the middle rack until golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool on a rack. Cut 10 inch ribbons and thread through the hole, then put a knot in it and decorate your tree as you see fit.

Makes about 20 cookies.

I wish you all a wonderful, magical Christmas time!


I look for it right around this time of year: the endive. Not the Belgian one, witlof, although that one has plenty of flavorful applications, but the regular, green curly endive, or chicory. Nothing says "Dutch" like a good old-fashioned stamppot, a pan full of mashed potatoes and a vegetable, and this time of year it's the perfect weather for it, and andijvie, endive, is just about the best vegetable. Oh, I do love kale, boerenkool, stamppot. And zuurkool, and hutspot. But the andijvie stamppot has a special place in my heart. Maybe it's the bacon. Or the fact that the mashed potatoes are warm and creamy, soft and pillowy, and the endive is raw and has a crunch to it. It creates this perfect mouthfool of food: soft, warm, crunchy, salty... Definitely one of my favorite, favorite foods!

Most earlier stamppotten consist only of potatoes and veg, and hardly contain any butter or milk. The potatoes are usually creamy enough to make up for the lack of dairy, and the vegetables release enough juices to make the dish moist but not rich. Save some of the water that you pour off the potatoes to add back when you mash them, or heat up a little bit of milk to add to the spuds: it does make it creamier. But because of the lack of butter, this may be a good dish if you want to watch your weight a little bit, eat healthy and still feel like you have a dish full of comfort food! If you are not worried about your weight, feel free to add a tablespoon or two of butter in with the potatoes when mashing.

"Foeksandijvie" is a stamppot made with curly endive, a vegetable easy to grow and readily accessible at your local grocery store. The lettuce-type greens are washed and cut into strips, and mixed ("foeksen" in the Veluwe dialect of the province of Gelderland where this dish is traditionally from) in with the potatoes after they have been mashed. The combination of warm, fluffy mashed potatoes with the crispy, slightly tart vegetables is a winner and will be a new favorite at your family's table.

The dish can be served with or without the added " karnemelksaus", a gravy made with buttermilk and salt pork. If you go without the sauce, fry the salt pork, bacon or pancetta in small strips or dice, and fold them in with the mashed potatoes. You can also leave the meat out altogether and stir in some small dice of aged Gouda or Cheddar, or serve the mashed potatoes with braadworst, fresh sausage, gehaktballen (Dutch meatballs), or a gebakken kaasplak, country-fried cheese patties.

Foeksandijvie met karnemelksaus
6 - 8 large potatoes (about 1 kg)
1 large head of escarole endive
1 teaspoon salt
Milk and butter, optional
Nutmeg, optional

Peel the potatoes and cut into regular sized chunks. Bring to a boil in a pan of water, barely covering the potatoes, add the salt and lower the heat to medium and boil for about twenty minutes. When the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, pour off the remainder of the water saving about half a cup (125 ml). Mash and add some potato water, or a little bit of warm milk and a tablespoon of butter, if you want a richer dish.

Wash the escarole, rinse and cut into half inch strips, leaving out the bottom part of the leaves: the white vein is sometimes too hard and bitter. Mix in with the mashed potatoes right before serving. Taste and adjust salt, and add a pinch of pepper or nutmeg if desired.

For the sauce
6 slices salted pork or bacon, diced
1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk
1/2 tablespoon of flour

Slowly render the fat out of the pork. Remove the meat, stir the flour into the fat and add the buttermilk. Stir until the sauce thickens, then add the pork back in. Serve separately, or pour it over the foeksandijvie on a family-style plate.


Sometimes, a smell will trigger memories or initiate thoughts of a particular season: the air will smell like "fall" or "summer", a plate of steaming mussels may remind you of a holiday at the coast, and the aroma of roast turkey will take you back to Thanksgiving.

The smell of worstenbroodjes, baking in the oven, remind me of Christmas. My grandparents would always serve worstenbroodjes on Christmas Eve, and it's a smell and a taste that I will forever associate with that particular holiday.

You can eat these meat-filled rolls all year, but they seem to be favored during the colder months. They are perfect to hold you over from dinner to midnight on New Year's Eve, to give you a little something to eat after First Christmas Day's hefty lunch if you are too full for dinner but still want to eat something....And they're traditionally served on Koppermaandag, the Monday after Three Kings Day on January 6th, which was the day that the guilds celebrated. They would go door to door to visit their customers and bid them a happy new year. Often, they were welcomed with worstenbroodjes and beer (or coffee) to warm up, and given a small monetary contribution that the guild members would then spend at the end of the day, at the local drinking establishments.

Traditionally, worstenbroodjes are typical from Brabant, a southern province in the Netherlands. Both Brabant and Limburg are the more gastronomically exciting provinces in Holland. Brabant is proud of its koffietafel, a lunch or brunch served with a large variety of rolls, breads, toppings, meats, cheeses and jams and copious amounts of coffee, and the Limburgers can boast about their many pies, the so called vlaaien. Brabant is from old also the province that excelled in raising large amounts of pork, hence anything made with pork often received the adjective Brabants, meaning "from Brabant", even if the product was not traditionally from that region.

In this case, Brabantse worstenbroodjes are indeed traditional from the area. In other parts of the country, the saucijzenbroodje is favored, but worstenbroodjes fit in perfectly with the koffietafel and aren't as rich. Makes ten worstenbroodjes.

For the rolls
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup (175 ml) warm milk
2 cups (250 gr.) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons (30 grams) butter
1 egg

For the filling
1 lb (500 grams) ground beef (preferably half-om-half i.e. half beef, half pork)
1/2 cup (25 grams) panko or dried breadcrumbs
1 egg
4 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)

For egg-wash
1 egg
2 tablespoons water

Activate the yeast by stirring it into the warm milk. In the meantime, mix the flour with the salt and the sugar. When the yeast has proofed which takes about five minutes (it's now all bubbly and smells great), add it to the flour and mix it in. Drizzle the melted butter on top, continue to mix and finally add in the egg. Mix briefly until it all comes together, then take it out of the bowl, and knead for about five to ten minutes by hand. Grease the bowl, add the dough, turn it over so it's coated, and cover. Let rise for approximately thirty minutes or until 2/3s larger in size.

In the meantime, mix the ground meat with the spices, the breadcrumbs, the egg and the milk. Cut off 2 oz (55 gr) portions and roll into a small ball. Set aside while you do the rest. When they're all divided into portions, carefully roll each ball out into a sausage shape, about five inches long. Cover.

Carefully punch down the dough. Divide into 2 oz (55 gr) pieces and also roll each piece into a ball. While you work on the rest, keep each one covered underneath a tea towel or plastic wrap, you don't want them to dry out.

Now, with a rolling pin, roll the dough into an elongated oval, slightly larger than five inches long. Place one sausage on top, fold over the short edges, pull over the long edge and carefully roll the sausage into the dough, pinching the seam.

Place each sausage roll on parchment paper or a silicone mat on a baking sheet. Cover and let them rise, at room temperature, for about thirty minutes until they're nice and puffy, and the dough doesn't spring back when you poke it.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Brush the sausage rolls with the egg wash and bake for approximately twenty to thirty minutes, or until golden.

Don't stick with just the traditional salt, pepper, nutmeg combo. Have fun with it and add some paprika, some all-spice, you may even add some small chopped onion or garlic. As with everything, recipes are just a guideline!


Stoofpeertjes, or stewed pears,  are one of those dishes that show up on the table when game such as rabbit, hare or pheasant is being served, or the richer meat dishes such as hazenpeper. Stoofpeertjes can also be served with "draadjesvlees", braised beef, in combination with boiled potatoes, and will take the place of a vegetable.

The first time I ate stewed pears was at a friend's house, I must have been six or seven years old. They served ratatouille and as dessert, stoofpeertjes. Ratatouille sounds much like "rat-something" and the chunks of eggplant were HUGE, something I was not necessarily fond of when I was younger, but I was raised right so ate without complaining. I felt so rewarded for my good behavior when we had stoofpeertjes for dessert....Once I bit into one of these soft, tender, sweet pears, all eggplant misery was forgotten and I was in food-heaven.

Stoofpeertjes can be served as a side-dish to a beef or pork entrée, or as dessert with some yogurt or hangop. It is easy to make and, if you have any leftover cranberry sauce or red currant jelly and a bottle of red wine from Thanksgiving, I'd be sure to give it a try. These pears will be a beautiful addition to your Christmas dinner table.

In the Netherlands we have pears that are specifically for cooking as they improve from stewing and turn red, like the Gieser Wildeman. As they are not available in the US, pick Bosc or Anjou pears as they hold their shape fairly well. Bartletts are okay too as long as they are slightly unripe - they will fall to pieces otherwise. Remember to use two spoons to turn the pears over in their liquid, if you have to, and handle them carefully so as not to cause any nicks or cuts. 

It's traditional to use red wine or juice for these pears, but don't let that stop you. Sweet white wine also works well, especially if you expand the flavors with star anise and/or ginger. 

4 pears
3 cups (750 ml) sweet wine or juice 
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 strip lemon peel, no pith
1/3 cup (65 grams) sugar

1 teaspoon corn starch

Peel the pears but leave the stem on. Warm the wine or juice in a sauce pan. Stir in the sugar, add the cinnamon stick and place the pears in the warm liquid. Bring to a boil, then turn to a slow simmer and cover.

Simmer for about forty minutes, turning the pears over occasionally, but don't simmer them past their point as you want the fruit to remain whole. Remove the pears carefully as the fruit will be soft. If you used berry jam, strain and discard the seeds out of the liquid, then reduce it or thicken with some cornstarch (mix corn starch with a little bit of cold water to make a slurry, and stir into hot juice, bring up to boil for a minute while stirring). Pour the sauce over the pears. This dish can be served warm or cold.

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Taaitaai is an age-old typical delicacy that's eaten during the Sinterklaas days. Taai (rhymes with "I" and means "tough") may well refer to the chewiness of the sweet dough. It is similar to speculaas, with the added flavor of aniseed, but misses the typical speculaas crunch: instead its dough is taai: tough and chewy.

Saint Nicholas grew out to be the protector of small children: in one story he brought back to life three young boys that had been killed. In another, he prevented three poor sisters from having to go into prostitution by throwing three bags with money into their home, one bag for each girl for her dowry. This may have sparked his status as protector of marriages, or matchmaker, and might have started the tradition of giving a taaitaai doll, a "vrijer", to an unmarried girl.

Taaitaai is usually baked in human shapes: often it's an image of Sinterklaas himself. The smaller versions are eaten as a treat or a cookie with a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. The larger size taaitaais are called "taaipop", i.e. taai doll. But in older days, as I learned by reading Dutch writer and poet Jan Ter Gouw (1814-1894), "Taaitaai, sweet as syrup, tough as leather and as brown as old sealing wax, was baked in a variety of shapes". Male and female dolls for the young people, shaped as a church for the religous folks, large hogs for grandpas and cat-shaped for grandmas, all richly decorated and sometimes even covered in gold leaf. Young men would gift a decorated taai-taai doll to a girl they were interested in marrying. The doll would be carved in the dough before baking and outfitted with elements and symbols referring to the pursuer's trade. These dolls were called "vrijers" or "lovers". The young man would return the next day: if the "vrijer" had been eaten, the girl accepted the proposal. If not....well, move on to the next one!

Most children that celebrate Sinterklaas are too young to be bothered with vrijers, but as adults it might be a fun tradition to continue.

Prepare the dough preferably a couple of days beforehand: the spices will be able to blend and provide a wonderful flavor. As with so many Dutch recipes, the ingredients are few so top quality is key!

2 cups of self-rising flour
1/3 cup of honey
2 tablespoons of pancake syrup
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground aniseed
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 egg

Warm the honey and the pancake syrup until they are easily pourable. Add all the spices and the salt to the flour, pour in the honey/syrup mix and knead into a flexible, non-sticky dough. (You may have to add some water, one tablespoon at a time, to achieve this.) Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for several hours or, preferably, a day or two.

Lightly dust the counter with flour. Roll out the dough about half an inch high and cut out the shapes. I used gingerbread men. Heat the oven to 350F, place a silicone mat or parchment paper on a baking sheet and transfer your cookies. Brush with beaten egg and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Taaitaai dolls, the Dutch "Chewy Louies"

Roti (Curried chicken with beans and potatoes)

When we talk about Dutch food it would be difficult, and careless, to ignore the colonial influences. Some cuisines, such as the Indonesian one, have had time to slowly integrate into the daily culinary grind, to the point where traditional Dutch families will serve Indonesian dishes (albeit it heavily adjusted to the local palate) regularly at the dinner table and not consider it extravagant or daring. Cuisines from other colonies, such as Suriname and part of the Netherlands Antilles, are not yet as integrated into the six o'clock dinner routine, but can be readily obtained at the many tropical eateries around town and are quickly becoming a favorite. Today's dish is a colonial culinary treasure from Suriname.

The country of Suriname is located on the northern coast of South America. A former colony of the Netherlands, it obtained its independency in 1975. Leading up to its independence, many Surinamese emigrated to Holland instead, thereby introducing a new culinary development. The Surinamese cuisine is an exciting mix of European, Indonesian, Indian and South American influences.

The Dutch brought over workers to plant and harvest the plantations: they were from Indonesia and India, equally former colonies. These workers prepared their own traditional dishes with local ingredients which, in turn, became local specialties. Roti is one of those dishes.

The roti is a flat unsweetened pancake, made from flour, oil and water. Often there is no leavener like eggs, although sometimes baking powder will be used. The roti is heated on a hot plate where the baking powder will puff it up, creating pockets of air and a tender structure. In various countries around the world rotis are served one way or the other: sometimes as a breakfast item, covered with sweetened coconut milk or as dinner with a variety of side items. That's how I'm eating my roti today, with a side of potatoes, chicken and green beans. The traditional roti is filled with yellow lentils, but I'm just making an easy one today. If you want to skip this part, a flour tortilla will do just fine.

Surinamese Roti
For the roti
1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 cup of oil
1/4 of warm water
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
extra flour

Mix the flour, the baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl, and slowly mix in the oil and water. Knead into a flexible dough, adding flour if you need to. Let the dough rest, then cut and roll into balls the size of a small egg. Heat a griddle or cast iron pan. Roll a dough ball into a large, flat pancake and place it on the hot surface: the roti will puff up in various places. Turn it over with a spatula until the other side is done. Place them on a plate and cover with a towel.

For the chicken
1 tablespoon of oil
2 chicken legs and thighs (or two medium chicken breasts cut in large chunks)
1 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 cups of water
2 tablespoons of curry powder*
1 pinch of sugar
3 large potatoes, peeled and quartered

In a Dutch oven, heat a little bit of oil and brown the chicken on all sides. Add the garlic and the onion, sauté with the chicken for a couple of minutes. Add the curry, the water and the bouillon cube and stir in the pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer for thirty minutes. Add the potatoes (you may have to add a little bit of water if the water doesn't cover the potatoes) and simmer until the potatoes are done. If the sauce doesn't thicken with the potatoes, use a little bit of flour or cornstarch.

For the beans
The beans used in this dish are traditionally long beans, or yard beans. You may be able to find them in the Asian grocery stores. In this case, I used standard green beans, they make a valid substitution.

1 lb of green beans
3 cups of water
1 bouillon cube
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Cut the green beans in two inch pieces. Bring to a boil with the water and the bouillon cube and boil until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken, the potatoes and the beans on a plate and serve the warm roti on the side. Tear a piece of the roti and use it to pick up a piece of potato, chicken and green bean. Wrap it up and eat! This is not a dish to eat with fork and knive, but with your fingers....

* Curry powder is a very personal choice: some people prefer to use a store bought spice mix, others mix their own. For ease of use, and because I appreciate the flavor, I usually go with an instant curry roux from S&B, available in the Asian aisle of your local grocery store.

Gevulde Speculaas

Soon, the Netherlands will be celebrating Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas. About a week before December 5th, children all over the country will place one of their shoes, filled with hay, a carrot or a handwritten letter, by whatever heating system the house possesses: a fireplace, gas furnace or central heating system. Why? Because at night, Saint Nicholas is supposedly roaming the roofs on his white horse Amerigo and has his helpers, the Pieten, go down the chimney to retrieve the gifts for the horse or the letter addressed to him. The letter usually contains the customary requests for presents and the assurance that the writer of the epistle had been an obedient, kind and pleasant child all year long. In exchange for Amerigo's goodies and the letter, helper Piet usually leaves a small piece of candy or fruit.

Courtesy of
On December 5th, the family gathers in the living room after dinner, children sing Sinterklaas songs at the chimney and at one particular time of the evening, there is knocking on the door. Knock-knock-knock! Any child that has been a pain in the neck to his parents all year and has a minute bit of a conscience will now be, if not fully in tears, at least in some type of panic. The person knocking on the door is of course Sinterklaas. He is here to deliver presents to the kids that have been good all year. If you're lucky, the old saint is so busy that, upon opening the door, all you find is a big bag of wrapped gifts. But if you have vengeful parents or a miffed neighbor, you will find the actual saint standing there with his helpers. At this point, any kid worth his weight will regret all the mischief from the last year: after all, Saint Nicholas has a big book that has every thought, action or word recorded and there will be no point in denying it. Oh boy!

Children that have been naugthy will be put in the, now empty gift bag and taken to Madrid in Spain, where Sinterklaas lives the rest of the year. What happens to them there is unknown. Many a smart alec will try to trump Sint and say that he'll be glad to go to Spain: the weather is nice year round and he wouldn't have to share a room with his sister.

I honestly don't know why we believed such drivel as children: any kid will at one point in time wonder how the horse gets up on the roof, much less stay there, how Piet can climb down the gas furnace, get all your stuff and then make it back up again without leaving any kind of charred evidence, why Sinterklaas bothers to travel all the way from Madrid on a steamboat and doesn't take an airplane like everybody else (and even more, how does he do it, since there is no direct waterway connected to the ocean from there) and why Sinterklaas looks and sounds so much like Uncle Steve. It must be because, eventually, we figured out that the adults amuse themselves so much with the anticipation, the hiding of the presents and the playing of Sinterklaas, that as a child, you don't have the heart to tell 'm that they're insulting your intelligence. You''ll play along as long as you get what you asked for. And you know you will, because it's been weeks since you found the wrapped gifts hidden away in the hall closet and you've undone one corner of each package to see what you were getting. Score!

In the meantime, grandma and grandpa sit back on the couch, drink a cup of hot chocolate or something stronger, and help themselves to another slice of gevulde speculaas. It's the traditional baked good for these festive days and although it is pretty much available year round, it still seems to trigger that Sinterklaas-feeling around this time of year.

Gevulde Speculaas
For the dough
2 cups (300 grams) self-rising flour (or regular flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder)
2 tablespoons (15 grams) speculaas spices
1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar, packed
Pinch of salt
1 stick and 2 tablespoons (150 grams) butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg 

For the filling*
1 cup (300 grams) almond paste
1 cup (125 grams) almonds, whole
1 cup (125 grams) powdered sugar, packed
1 egg, large
1 teaspoon almond flavoring (optional but recommended)
1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 egg, separated

If you are making your own paste for this recipe, pour two cups of boiling water over the almonds and let them sit for about fifteen minutes. Rinse the nuts with cold water, and slip off the brown skin. Save twelve half almonds for decorating. Put the almonds in a blender and pulse several times until they have a wet sand consistency, that should take only a few pulses. Place the almond meal in a bowl, and stir in the sugar, the egg, the almond extract, the zest, and the egg white of the second egg. If you are using already made almond paste, add in the egg white and stir. You should have a creamy, spreadable consistency. If not, add in a tablespoon of hot water.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Mix the flour, the speculaas spices, the sugar and salt. Cut in the butter with two knives until the butter is reduced to pebbles and the flour feels like wet sand. Add the milk and the egg yolk and knead the dough by hand until it comes together. Split in half, roll each into a ball, wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight.

Grease a 9" (23 cm) round** or 11 x 7 inch (28 x 17.5 cm) rectangular pie pan or springform and roll out the first dough. Cover the bottom and the sides of the pan, about 1.5 inch (approx. 4 cm) high. Spread the creamy almond filling over the dough, roll out the second dough and cover the filling and the edges of the pie form. Don't worry if it looks like the top is sunk down on top of the paste, it will rise with baking.

Brush with the remaining egg yolk, place the 12 almond halves on the pie, brush again, and bake at 325F (165C) for about 35 minutes. The speculaas will have browned nicely and the egg glaze will be golden, as in the picture below. Let it cool before taking it out of the spring form, then carefully slice into 12 pieces and serve.

* for an even better flavor, the almond filling can be made up several days in advance. Keep refrigerated. 

Rode kool met appeltjes

Around this time of year, when you walk along the narrow streets of Holland at dinner time, it is very possible that you would smell the lovely, spicey, clove and nutmeg filled smells of hachee, an old fashioned traditional beef and onion stew, emanating from a kitchen window. And if you stand still and concentrate on that mixture of smells, you might be able to detect a sweet and sour undertone, a bit cabbage-like, but not much. You'd be so right! Red cabbage, braised with apples, is THE vegetable to serve with hachee and boiled potatoes. It's a typical Dutch winter dish. The sweetness of the apple combines perfectly with the tanginess of the cabbage and the vinegar, and makes for a beautiful mix. 

Most of our cabbages are grown in the province of North-Holland, near the West-Frisian town of Langedijk, where many varieties of red and green cabbage originated and are still grown to this day. 

As with practically any low-and-slow food, the braised cabbage will taste even better the next day (if there's any left). I've found myself many times sneaking a forkful of refrigerated cabbage in the middle of the night. The slight crunch of the cabbage, the sweet and sour combination, the tenderness of the apples...…yum!!

Rode kool met appeltjes
1 medium sized red cabbage
1 small apple
4 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Peel the outer, tough leaves off the cabbage. Cut the cabbage in half, then each half in half again. This will give you an easy opportunity to cut out the core which is tough and bitter. Slice each quarter in thin strips. Rinse the cabbage and add to a pan with a heavy bottom. 

Add enough water to cover the cabbage about halfway, and set it on the stove. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon stick, cover and bring to a slow boil. Stir in the vinegar, add the sugar, stir and cover again. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Let it slowly braise on the back of the stove, for a good half hour.

In the meantime, peel, core and quarter your apple. Stick the three cloves in the largest piece of apple before adding them to the pan, and slowly simmer until the apple is soft. Remove the cabbage and apple from the pan until you only have the braising liquid left. Fish out the bay leaves and the cinnamon stick, and pick the cloves off the apple. 

Make a slurry with the cornstarch (one tablespoons water to one tablespoon cornstarch) and thicken the liquid into a sauce. Turn off the heat. Add the cabbage and apple mix back into the pan, stir a couple of times to mix the sauce with the vegetables. Taste, adjust with salt and pepper. If you like it sweeter or tangier, add a bit more sugar or vinegar. When it's cooled, you can keep it in the fridge for two days.

Red cabbage also pairs very well with game: rabbit, hare, venison and elk.

Arnhemse Meisjes

Arnhem is, no doubt, mostly known for its role during the Second World War. The movie "A Bridge Too Far" with some of the world's best actors (Sean Connery, Michael Cain, James Caan, Anthony Hopkins, Ryan O'Neal, Robert Redford, Elliot Gould, Gene Hackman) and directed by Richard Attenborough, chronicles the events around Operation Market Garden.

But even before the bridge, and the actors, and the movie and that horrible war, there was something else that was unique to Arnhem: its girls. Noooo, not those kind of girls. A light, sugary, flaky cookie called Arnhemse Meisjes, or Arnhem Girls. Maybe because the girls were sweet and eh....flaky? I don't know. I've never met anybody from Arnhem, to my knowledge, so I have no opinion on the matter.

Its cookies however....They became famous because Roald Dahl, the writer, once stopped in Arnhem on a book signing tour. While he signed away, he was offered coffee and a cookie. He kept eating and eating (thereby dispelling the terrible myth that the Dutch are so tight-fisted that they will only serve you one cookie and then hit the lid on the cookie jar), and fell in love with the cookie. When he was done (signing or eating, I'm not sure) he expressed his admiration for the cookie and said it was the best cookie in the world. Well! Either way, he obtained the recipe from the local baker and it was published in his book  "Roald Dahl's Cookbook".

Nowadays, there is only one official Arnhemse Meisjes baker: bakery Van Asselt in Arnhem. These cookies stem from 1829 when baker Hagdorn was busy inventing new cookies that would do well at parties and festivities. One day, he made a cookie in the shape of a shoe sole, sugared it, and baked it, and hey presto! the Arnhem Girls were born. The slightly flaky yeast dough pairs nicely with the sugary topping. It is an easy cookie to make and will delight many!

Arnhemse Meisjes
1 cup all-purpose flour (approx. 150gr)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (125 ml) milk, warm (but not hot!)
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest or lemon juice
1 stick (115 grams) butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) regular granulated sugar
1/8 cup (20 grams) coarse sugar* (optional)

Mix the flour and the salt, stir the yeast in with the warm milk and let it sit for a couple of minutes so the yeast can be activated. Stir the milk and yeast into the flour, add the lemon juice and stir again. Now add the butter in small amounts while you knead/stir until everything comes together. Shape the dough into a sausage, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours. The dough will be a bit sticky but as soon as the butter hardens, it will be easier to handle. 

Take out the dough and divide it into equal pieces, a little less than 1oz or 20 gr each. The recipe above should give you approximately 16 cookies. Roll each piece into a small ball. Pour the regular sugar into a bowl and roll the dough balls through the sugar. Retrieve the dough, wrap and refrigerate. Do not discard the sugar. Turn on the oven to 350F/175C.

Turn on the oven to 350F/175C. Retrieve the sugary dough balls from the fridge. Place a dough ball on top of the sugary counter and use a rolling pin to roll each ball into an oval shape, about 3 inches long. Turn it over and press the cookie into the (coarse, if using) sugar, making sure that both sides are well covered. Place each cookie on a silicone mat or parchment paper on a baking sheet. When all cookies are made, sprinkle the remaining (coarse, if using) sugar over the cookies and bake them golden in approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

The cookies will puff up, the sugar will caramelize and you will have a wonderful and unique cookie with a great story to serve with coffee.

I use this kind of coarse sugar. This is an Amazon affiliate link, which means that if you buy through this link, Amazon will compensate me, at no cost to you. This will help with maintaining the website.


De Verstandige Kock’ ("The Sensible Cook") was first published in 1667 in Amsterdam. A rather thin cookbook, it contained recipes for the average citizen, not wealthy but not overly poor either. Its last print was from 1802. For those that do not read Dutch, there is help as the book was translated by Peter Rose in 1998. It contains a myriad of recipes and historical facts about the way the Dutch cooked and how it impacted the Dutch settlements in the Hudson Valley.

I've copied below the original text that belongs to the recipe I made today, a centuries old but still popular dish in the Netherlands.

"Om een schoenmakerstaert te backen: Neemt suere Appels, schildtse, aen stucken gesneden en gaar gekoockt, wrijft die kleyn, neemt dan boter, Suycker, en Corenten, yder na zijn believen, en dat samen met 4 à 5 eyeren daer in gheroert, neemt dan geraspt Tarwenbroot, en doet dat onder in een schootel, daer op u Appelen geleght, doeter weer geraspt Tarwenbroot boven over, en deckt dan toe met een decksel van een Taertpanne, en vuur daer op gheleght, maeckt een goede korste."

(To bake a cobbler's pie: take sour apples, peel them, cut them in pieces and boil them until soft, mash them, take butter, sugar and raisins as much as you please, and mix this with 4 or five eggs, take shredded wheat bread, and put it on the bottom of a dish, put the apples on top, cover it again with shredded wheat bread and cover it with the lid of a pie dish, on which you place coals, makes a good crust).

I guess punctuation was not that big of a deal in the Middle Ages. Nowadays, we use rusks (beschuiten) or in my case, panko, the japanese variant of breadcrumbs, instead of "shredded wheat bread". I much prefer panko for sweet dishes like these, as it's lighter, a little sweeter and is closest to the rusk crumb. To this dish you can add raisins if you wish, or a pinch of cinnamon, ginger,'s a great dish to experiment with. For those that don't want the sugar, the pie holds its own made with a sugar-substitute as well.

Now, why is it called a cobbler's pie? Many have ventured a guess, but nobody so far has been able to give a valid explanation. But it's a wonderful, light dish to finish a meal with, or to accompany a hot cup of coffee or tea, mid-morning. And maybe that's something a hard working cobbler can appreciate as well.

4 small apples
1/2 cup of water
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
3 eggs, separated
1 cup panko or breadcrumbs

Peel, core and cut the apples in small pieces. Place them in a saucepan with the water, the butter, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a boil, stir well, then simmer until the apples are done and you can mash it into apple sauce.

Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Mix the egg yolks and the panko with the apple mixture, then carefully spoon the egg whites through the mix. Don't overmix it, as you want to keep the air in the egg whites!

Grease a pie pan, heat the oven to 350F, carefully pour the apple batter into the dish, and bake for about 50 minutes. Cool, dust with powdered sugar (if you like) and cut into large slices.

Griesmeelpudding met bessensaus

Every now and then I come across a recipe in my Dutch cookbooks that surprises me once I try it. A traditional dessert called "griesmeelpudding" (grits pudding) sounded old-fashioned even when I was a little girl. My grandma never even made it, that's how old fashioned it was, imagine that!

My mom doesn't care for dairy so our milky desserts were few and far between. Come to think of it, we never ate much dessert, as neither my mom nor my grandma cared for sweets. I guess I've made up for both :-)

Anyway, "griesmeelpudding" did not sound appetizing, partly because of its perceived high "last century" factor, partly because the name "gries" (grits) forms also, phonetically, the first syllable for the verb "griezelen", i.e. shudder in horror ( a "griezelfilm" is a horror movie). Kids would often refer to the pudding as "griezelpudding" and would not eat it. No wonder!

But in my quest to cover the traditional Dutch kitchen, I cannot circumvent something so typically Dutch. And after deliberately cooking and baking twenty other things, I've finally come full circle and decided to tackle the griesmeelpudding. And I am SO glad I did!!

There is something inheritently comforting in the smell of warm milk with sugar. I don't know if it's because my grandma would make "lammetjespap" for me every so often and it reminds me of being a child, or whether it's a nurturing thing. No clue. But when I stand over the stove, warming up milk and stirring sweet sugar into it, I get this homey, warm, fuzzy feeling, perfect for these cold days.

The "griesmeelpudding" is very similar to rice pudding, as we know it here in the United States, but the berry sauce most definitely adds a characteristic and flavorful angle to it.

For the pudding:
1 cup of grits
4 cups of milk
3/4 cup of sugar
1 slice of lemon peel, no pith
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

For the sauce:
1 can of cranberry-raspberry sauce (or a small jar of berry jam)
1 cup of apple juice
1/2 cinnamon stick

Bring the milk to a slow boil, add the lemon peel and the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add in the grits, bring back to a boil but keep stirring to prevent the milk from burning. Lower the heat and cook for about six to seven minutes or until the grits are gorged, but stir every so often to make sure the bottom doesn't burn. Stir in the vanilla.

Rinse the pudding form with cold water and, after removing the lemon peel, pour the grits into the form. Set it in the fridge to cool. It will take a good five hour to set: even better if you can leave it overnight.

When you're ready to serve dessert, add the contents of the cranberry sauce or the berry jam to a small saucepan, add the apple juice or water to thin the sauce and the cinnamon stick. Stir well, bring to a boil, then simmer for a good twenty minutes. Thicken with cornstarch if needed. I decided to put my sauce through a sieve in order to remove all the raspberry seeds, but that's purely a personal preference.

Pour some warm water over the outside of the pudding form, lightly loosen the sides of the pudding and invert the whole thing onto a plate. Pour the thick berry sauce on top and on the sides, and enjoy!

Hallee, it's hachee day!

Hachee (hash-ay) is one of those old-fashioned dishes that pops up on the table the moment the temperature outside drops to "colder than dirt". Looking out the window and seeing snow, I knew it was time for a good old "stick to your ribs" kind of meal, and hachee is just the ticket!

November 15 is National Hachee Day in the Netherlands. The stewed beef dish has been around since the Middle Ages, where its main function was to use up all the pieces of meat that needed to be used up, combined with a bunch of onions, some leftover red wine and set to simmer on the back of the stove. It's such an easy and yet grateful dish to make, and a favorite of the Dutch. Cubes of beef, stewed in a sauce flavored with onions, bay leaf, vinegar, juniper berries and pepper corns, pair perfectly with creamy mashed potatoes and red cabbage or, if you're in the mood, try the stew over a plate of golden fries....patat stoofvlees is a favorite snack!

This is a great dish to prepare in a Crock-Pot. Throw everything together in the morning, turn it on low and go on your merry way: when you come home, dinner will be ready! For this dish, I tend to use chuck pot roast, or a bottom round or rump roast: it's a cheaper cut of meat that will benefit greatly from this cooking method.

2 lbs of beef, cubed
1 tablespoon of butter
3 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon of flour
1/2 beef bouillon cube, or homemade beef bouillon
4 cups of water
3 bay leaves
3 cloves, whole
4 juniper berries (optional)
8 pepper corns
3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or red wine

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and quickly brown the cubed beef. Add the onions and stir in with the beef until the onions are translucent. Sprinkle the flour over the beef, crumble the bouillon cube and add with four coups of water 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 pepper corns, 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, 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 red cabbage, or over a plate of rice.

To make it really Dutch, don't forget the "kuiltje" (pothole)
in your mashed potatoes for the gravy!