Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Erwtensoep


This morning, when I looked out the window, there was snow on the mountains, and the temperature had dropped significantly overnight. Seeing the snow and smelling the crisp air all of a sudden made me crave erwtensoep, a comforting Dutch split pea soup. It's no wonder that this soup is served when people take their new year's dip in the North Sea each January 1st - it is a stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup, hearty, comforting and provides plenty of fuel.

Split pea soup can also be found for sale in "koek-en-zopie" shacks on, or next to, the frozen canals and lakes. These shacks sell hot soup, mulled wine, coffee and cookies - a great way to warm up after a fun day on the ice!

Snert, another name for erwtensoep, is a popular dish in Holland, and will often be quoted as THE Dutch soup. As popular as it may be, pea soup has been around much longer than we have, and many cultures have a version of soup made with peas. In our case, the soup features smoked pork meat and tends to be thick - in fact, so thick that a wooden spoon can stand up straight without falling over!

The soup can be served for lunch as the main dish, or as a starter. It can be served with dark rye bread and bacon on the side, or in this case, with plain pancakes. For a more exotic twist, people will sometimes serve erwtensoep over rice, with a lick of sambal or sriracha sauce and fried onions on top. If you're not in the mood for pancakes, and don't feel like rye bread, try the rice sometime!

This recipe is ready in less than an hour. The pork can come in a variety of ways: bacon, kielbasa, smokies, smoked neck bones.....You can chose only one, or combine two. Makes enough for four.

Erwtensoep
2 cups split peas (450 grams)
7 to 8 cups water (1.6 to 1.8 liters)
2 carrots, peeled
2 ribs celery (or one cup of chopped celery root)
1 small onion, peeled
2 bay leaves
black pepper
pinch of salt

About 12 little smokies or a kielbasa, rookworst, thick bacon....

Rinse the split peas and remove anything that doesn't belong (stones, sticks, dried up discolored peas...). Put the peas and 7 cups of water in a soup pot. Chop the vegetables and add to the peas. Bring to a boil, add the bay leaves, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. Make sure the soup does not burn so give it a stir every now and then - and add some water if you feel the soup is getting too thick.

If you are using smoked pork chops, or neck bones, simmer them with the soup for a good twenty minutes, then remove and shred the meat. Add the meat back to the soup.

When the peas are soft, remove the bay leaf and either puree or just stir the soup several times vigorously. The peas will dissolve and give it a creamy consistence. Stir in the little smoked sausages or the kielbasa (slice before adding), and heat the soup back up until the meat is warm. Taste the soup, and adjust the salt level if needed. Add a dash of black pepper, if you like.

This is an easy, quick solution for when you come home and want a filling, comforting soup. I always keep a pack of little smoked sausages or a kielbasa in the fridge just for that. Split peas do not have to be soaked in order to cook quickly so you can have this soup on the table in less than an hour.

Pancakes
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons butter (± 80 grams)

Mix the flour, milk and eggs into a batter and add the salt, and two tablespoons of butter. Heat a frying pan, on medium temperature. Melt one tablespoon of butter and add 1/2 cup of batter.  Flip the pancake when the bottom is golden and fry the other side. Makes six to 8 pancakes. Store under tea towel or pan lid to keep soft.





Monday, October 25, 2010

Boerencake met appel en kaneel

I don't know why the Dutch tend to add the prefix "boeren" (farmers) to food items that are larger than usual. Boerensoepgroenten (yes, that is a word!), or farmers soup vegetables, are the same vegetables as the traditional soepgroenten that consist of carrots, leeks and celeriac, but cut in larger chunks. The same with "boerencake": it's like any other cake, just larger. Odd. Maybe it's because the Dutch farmers work hard and need to eat more food?

On Sunday, my dear friend Naomi brought over a bucket full of apples to process. I ate some, baked with several others and am dehydrating the rest. Since the weather looks just like a typical Dutch fall weather (cold, rainy, dark) and I have not much else to do but watch the apples dry, I decided to bake a golden boerencake with some apples and cinnamon to bring a little bit of light into the kitchen. It worked!

It is important that your ingredients are at room temperature as it will improve the texture of the cake.

Boerencake
1 1/2 stick (200g) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (60g) milk, room temperature
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
1 1/2 cup (200g) self-rising flour, room temperature
2 apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar

Cream the butter and the sugar until they've formed a cohesive, fluffy mass. Add the eggs, one by one, until all absorbed. Add the lemon zest, half of the milk and half of the flour with the mixer on low. Make sure there are no lumpy bits. Now add the rest of the milk and the flour (keep one tablespoon), one tablespoon at a time until everything's well mixed. Now mix to beat air into the mixture for a good five minutes on medium speed.

Peel and dice the apples, toss with the sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and one tablespoon of flour and fold into the batter. Grease the cake form, spoon the cake batter into the form and bake on the middle rack in an 350F (175C) oven, for about an hour until golden, or until a toothpick comes out clean.



Invert onto a rack, turn over and cool before slicing. I like to use half fresh, half dehydrated apples for this recipe.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Boerenkool met worst

It looks like it froze for the first time last night. Bad news for the garden's summer vegetables, but this is the time that other veggies benefit from cold nights, like kale. The Dutch have a very solid and varied repertoire of winter dishes: solid in the sense that they all consist of the culinary trinity (meat, vegetables and potatoes) and varied because well....because there is scarcely a thing the Dutch don't add to their famous "stamppot".

Literally meaning 'stomped pot", stamppot is a dish that consists of boiled potatoes mashed with a raw or cooked vegetable. The meat is either served on top, on the side or cut into small pieces and mixed in. If the choice of protein generates any type of pan juice or jus, it will be served in a small hollow made on top of the mashed potato dish, the so-called "kuiltje jus" (similar to a pothole in the road, but different).

Those that know me well will be surprised to see that I served up mashed potatoes with kale, a dish simply called "boerenkool", so named after the vegetable, farmer's cabbage or kale. There are few things in the food world that I don't care for, and one of them is boerenkool. Or was, I should say!

Somehow the American kale is not half as bitter as the Dutch one is, so after preparing this dish with Michiel for Idaho's Melting Pot, I was pleasantly surprised, enough even to go home and cook it for myself two days later. It's been a keeper ever since.

Kale is a dark-leaf vegetable that will add plenty of nutrition to your diet: it is riddled with vitamins and minerals and contributes plenty of protein. The butter and the kielbasa....not so much. But if you are looking for a healthier option, save the cooking liquid and pour that back into the stamppot for mashing, a little bit at a time, until you've reached the desired consistency.

Kale with kielbasa
3 bunches of kale (or 1 lb)
6 large potatoes
3 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of milk, warmed
1 smoked kielbasa
Salt
Black pepper

Cut the leaves off the stems and slice the leaves into narrow strips, then chop them into small pieces. Peel the potatoes, quarter them and place them in a Dutch oven. Add water to barely cover the potatoes, then put the kale on top, and add the kielbasa whole, but without the packaging. The amount of kale will look enormous compared to the potatoes, but the heat will wilt the leaves and reduce in volume significantly.

Cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil. Boil on a low flame for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are done.

Remove the kielbasa, pour off any cooking liquid that may remain and mash the vegetables with a fork or a potato masher. Add the butter and the milk (or for a less caloric version, add the cooking liquid back in) and stir the whole into a creamy consistency. Taste, and adjust with salt and black pepper.

Slice the kielbasa into even sized slices, and place it on top of the stamppot. Serve with mustard if desired.


Arretje's cake

During the early years, before and after the war, companies in Holland realized that one way of reaching into the tightly pinched pockets of the Dutch housewife was through the hearts (or the constant jengelen) of her children. Marketing companies invented mascots, fictitious people and fantasy figures to distinguish their company from other ones, and promoted their products in marketing materials such as booklets, cartoons, radio ads and even short movies. Especially the cartoons were very popular among the younger kids, and if you happened to own some, you could be assured of plenty of attention!

Flipje is sharing Betuwe goodies
with his friends.
Image from
www.levensmiddelenkrant.nl/
Piet Pelle was a fictitious young man who rolled into one exciting adventure after the other on his Gazelle bicycle. Flipje from the Betuwe, a fertile fruit growing region in the Netherlands, was something akin of a young man, with a human head, the body of a raspberry and limbs made out of currants. His head was adorned with a chef's hat and he would always end his adventures with a party, inviting everybody to eat copious amounts of jam, fruit juice and other fruit related products that, oh coincidence, all came from the Betuwe region. Joris Driepinter, Joe ThreePints, was the figure for the dairy industry, showing that by drinking three glasses of milk a day, you would have enough strength to even lift up a car. Okay.

Arretje Nof was another one of those concoctions of the marketing agencies. The Nederlandse Olie Fabriek (Dutch Oil Factory, or NOF) published regularly booklets about the adventures of a young Arab boy called Arretje-NOF. The cartoons could be purchased by saving coupons with points that were printed on the packaging of NOF products. Not many remember the cartoons but the one thing that, to this day, appears prominently in traditional Dutch desserts is the so-called Arretje's Cake.

The NOF board butchered a beautiful Italian recipe for chocolate salami, stripped it from all quality ingredients and replaced it with affordable items that were easy to find for the Dutch cook: margarine (which the NOF happened to produce in large quantities), dry cookies, sugar and cocoa powder instead of butter, luxury cookies and quality chocolate. Nevertheless, the Arretje's cake (presumably named because that's what Arretje celebrated his birthday with) became a huge success in Holland and has become one of those indelible memories of treats that grandmas make for their grandchildren.

Is it tasty? Most say that they love this no-bake cake. You can hardly go wrong with sugar, cookies, chocolate and butter. Try for yourself and see what you think! The original recipe calls for shortening but margarine, or even butter ("real butter" as the Dutch say) is more commonly used.

Our recipe includes raw eggs, but brings the batter up to 140F (60C) on the stove to make sure any pathogens are destroyed. Raw or undercooked eggs can be a safety risk. If you don't have a food thermometer, or want to be on the safe side, please use vanilla pudding or heavy cream as an alternative. Safety first!

Arretje's Cake
2 sticks butter (250 grm)
1 cup sugar (225 grm)
6 tablespoons cacao powder (40 grm)
2 eggs (or 1/4 cup of vanilla pudding or heavy cream)
2 oz dark chocolate
About 60 dry Maria cookies*

Melt the butter slowly in a sauce pan, until just melted, on low to medium heat. Mix the sugar and cacao in a separate bowl and set aside.

Beat the eggs well. Temper the eggs with some of the butter (pour in a little bit of the warm butter and stir into the eggs until it's incorporated) and keep adding the butter to the eggs until they're both mixed. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and take it back to the stove. Stir in the cocoa and sugar and keep stirring until they're blended into a thick chocolate sauce. Make sure all the sugar has dissolved. If you rub a little bit of the mixture between your thumb and index finger and it feels gritty, the sugar has not yet dissolved.

Grate the dark chocolate, or break it into small pieces and add it to the sauce pan. Keep stirring, and bring the temperature of the mixture up to 140F (60C) and keep it there, while stirring, for 3 1/2 minutes. If you are using vanilla pudding or heavy cream, you can skip this step. Just warm it up enough to melt the chocolate.

Take the sauce pan from the stove and let it cool a bit. In the meantime, add the cookies to a bag, or fold them into a clean towel, and roll your rolling pin over the cookies several times. You are looking to break the cookies into pieces no larger than a quarter.

Fold the cookies into the chocolate paste until they're all well covered. Line a cake pan with parchment paper or plastic film, spoon the mixture into the pan and flatten it with a spatula, making sure there are no air bubbles.

Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours, or overnight. Lift the cake out of the pan, and cut into thin slices. This cake is very rich!


* If you don't have Maria cookies, consider any other crisp cookie: iced oatmeal cookies, Oreos, or even Animal Crackers will work!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bitterballen

In Holland, a night out on the town, or a social event with coworkers, usually starts out at a local café, with a beer and something called a "bittergarnituur". The word translates as the slightly confusing "garnish for bitters", where bitters in this case refers to alcoholic beverages. The Dutch were one of the first to dedicate themselves to perfecting the distillation process, presenting the world with spirits such as Dutch gin (jenever) and a large variety of liqueurs and bitters, these last ones presumably with medicinal properties. Nowadays, one of the most famous drinks is Ketel One, a Dutch vodka that is especially popular in the United States.

Alcohol is traditionally consumed with something savory on the side, and thus the bittergarnituur was invented. This colorful platter will usually contain bite-size cubes of Gouda cheese, miniature eggrolls and meatballs, perhaps some slices of salami or chorizo and ofcourse, how can it not, the marvelous bitterballen.

Bitterballen are one of Holland's favorite snacks. In the early and mid-1900s, they were the housewife's perfect way to transform yesterday's meat leftovers into today's appetizer. Served shaped as a log (kroket) or in bite-size rounds, bitterballen were often served as an aperitif, or tapa, before lunch or dinner.

Nowadays, bitterballen are predominantly served outside the home, either as part of the bittergarnituur or as a snack on the side with a portion of French fries, but are no longer part of the housewife's culinary repertoire. Which is rather unfortunate, because bitterballen are easy to make and freeze beautifully for later use! 

This deep-fried, crispy, bite-size ball of meaty gravy is to be eaten with a good, savory mustard. Take the bitterbal between thumb and index finger, dip one side into the mustard and pop the whole thing in your mouth. No double-dipping! Bitterballen are also, presumably, best eaten while piping hot!

Bitterballen are traditionally made with beef, but can also be made with chicken, veal or even with mushrooms, for those that prefer a vegetarian option.

Bitterballen
1 stick of butter
1 cup of flour
3 cups of beef stock
3 tablespoons of onion, minced
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, minced
2 cups of shredded cooked beef
Salt
Pepper
Nutmeg

For the breading
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups bread crumbs

Make a roux with the butter and the flour (slowly melt the butter in a skillet or pan. When melted, add the flour little by little and stir into a thick paste). Slowly stir in the stock, making sure the roux absorbs the liquid. Simmer for a couple of minutes on a low heat while you stir in the onion, parsley and the shredded beef. Taste, add pepper and salt and a pinch of nutmeg. Taste again and adjust if necessary.

Pour the meat gravy into a shallow container, cover and refrigerate for several hours, or until the gravy has solidified.

Take a heaping tablespoon of the cold, thick gravy and quickly roll it into a small ball. Roll lightly through the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Make sure that the egg covers the whole surface of the bitterbal. (If it doesn't, the filling will spill out into the fryer and you will be left with a hollow shell, and a messy fryer!). Set each ball aside on a plate. When done, refrigerate the snacks while the oil in your fryer heats up to 375F.

Fry five to six balls at a time, until golden brown. Serve on a plate with a nice grainy or spicy mustard.




Makes approximately 20 bitterballen.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Macaroni

Ten percent of the Dutch population thinks that macaroni and chili con carne are.......Dutch dishes. I kid you not. Eighty-seven percent of that same population eats macaroni at least once a week. When you ask children here in the USA what their favorite kind of food is, they'll usually say: Pizza! Dutch kids would tell you that macaroni was their favorite food.

A Dutch TV show called "Man Bijt Hond" ("Man bites dog") has a section called "Hond Aan Tafel", where the camara crew knocks on a random house door around dinner time and asks the surprised habitants if they can join them. Most often the answer is yes, and the short scene allows for a peek in the life of just an ordinary person. Nine out of then, the answer to "What's for dinner?" is...you guessed it.....macaroni.

And they're not the only ones that love macaroni. Yours truly enjoys a huge plate of the salty, warm, comforting pasta with a pickle on the side to provide some crunch, yummmmm!!!!!!!!!!!! It's one of the many reasons why I keep ground beef in the freezer: once the meat is thawed, this dish is quick and easy to prepare. Just what you need when you're looking for some comfort!

Dutch Macaroni
3 cups of elbow macaroni or fusilli
1 lb of ground beef
1/2 a leek, white only, sliced thin
1 red pepper
1 sachet of macaroni spices*
1 small can of tomato sauce
Pickles, optional

Cook the macaroni according to instructions. Brown the ground beef in a skillet, pour off the fat and add in strips of red pepper and the sliced leek. Stir in the spices and the tomato sauce, simmer for ten minutes. Add the macaroni and mix with the sauce. Serve warm.



* I buy the macaroni spices in Dutch stores online, but the spaghetti spice mix packages that are available in your standard supermarket are practically the same.

Mosselen

I don't actually know that there is such a thing as Belgian-style mussels but I'm not entirely making this name up either. The way these are prepared are very similar to how they're eaten on the Belgian coast. With a dipping sauce, some bread and, here I am majorly lacking today, some golden fries.

In the Netherlands, mussels are usually on the menu when the letter "R" is present in the name of the month: from September till April, you can find mussels on the menu at restaurants, for sale at the fish mongers and on the stove in Dutch kitchens all over the country. Well, I wasn't up for making fries what with one thing and another, but I didn't mind making the sauce and baking the bread. "R" has been in the months for a long time and I was really starting to crave these puppies!


I dug out a bag of mussels from the freezer. They're so quick to prepare and totally hit the spot today: their salty, oceany smell reminded me of summer, of holidays on the beach and of happy times. Get frozen ones if you can, they've been cleaned and scrubbed already and will save you a lot of time. Don't eat the ones that have broken shells or don't open up during the cooking process: they're likely to be bad and may make you sick.

Mussels
2 pounds of mussels
1 rib of celery, diced
1/2 carrot, peeled and diced
2 shallots, peeled and quartered
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups of white wine
2 cups of water

Dipping sauce
2 tablespoons of mustard
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of vinegar

Mix into a smooth sauce.

Put the water, the wine, shallots, carrots, garlic and celery in a Dutch oven with a lid. Bring to a boil. Lift the lid, add the mussels and boil for seven to eight minutes. The mussels will open up and will be ready to eat.

To serve, place the pan on the table with an extra plate for the shells. Serve with fries and a dipping sauce. Use your fingers to pull the mussels out of the shells or a small fork, dip into the sauce and eat up.

Bruine Bonen met Rijst

Brown beans and rice, or as we say in Holland, bruine bonen met rijst, is a typical dish from Suriname, a former colony of the Netherlands. Here in America, I don't have easy access to the Dutch brown beans, so I use pinto beans instead.

Bruine Bonen met Rijst
1 small piece salt pork
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tomato, deseeded and chopped
2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoonblack pepper
1/2 beef bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup celery leaves
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup instant rice
Water

Cut the salt pork in small dice, then fry in a skillet until soft and transparent. Add the onion and the garlic. Stir until soft, then add the tomato. When the tomato has softened as well, add the beans, the water, the tomato sauce, ginger, pepper, the bouillon cube and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about twenty minutes. Taste and adjust (don't add any salt before tasting, the pork tends to be salty enough), add the sugar and the celery leaves, remove the bay leaf and stir everything together. Simmer for another five minutes while you prepare the rice.

Put the rice in a microwaveable bowl, add enough water so that the rice is covered, then microwave on high for two and a half minutes. Let it sit to dry for a minute or two, then stir.

Serve the beans on top of the rice. Nice with some crunchy slices of cucumber.


We're expanding!

Dear readers,
Believe it or not, but Dutch cuisine is gaining momentum in the culinary world! Because of the incredible interest that has been shown in Dutch baking, we've expanded and added a new site: My Dutch Cooking Blog! Remember hutspot, kaantjes, erwtensoep? Always wanted to know how to make bitterballen?
Recipes will soon be posted!
Kind regards en tot ziens!
Nicole

Hutspot met klapstuk

Yesterday, the city of Leiden celebrated the victory in 1574 over the Spanish invaders. It's an annual celebration during which the Leideners consume large amounts of white bread with herring and even larger amounts of something called hutspot, a colorful mashed potato dish. It's not only eaten on the 3rd of October, but is an extremely popular evening meal during the cold winter days. Hutspot is traditionally served with klapstuk, a piece of braised beef, but sometimes will also be eaten with a typical Dutch meatball. The best carrots to use for this dish are winterpenen, winter carrots such as the Flakkee or Autumn King, a larger and thicker variety of the orange carrot that is harvested shortly after the first frost. The sugars in the carrot add a hint of sweetness to this dish that will appeal to almost any eater, young or old.

The origin of this particular choice of starchy food goes back to a small remainder of stew that was presumably left behind in a large copper pot by the fleeing Spanish army. A young man found the still warm stew and shared it triumphantly with the rest of the starving Leiden-ers. Or at least with those that didn't like herring, I'm sure.

The name of this dish does not sound very appetizing, not even in Dutch. Loosely translated it means "hotchpotch with slap piece". Well, there you go, see what I mean? Who wants to eat that?

But, as is often the case, appearance deceives. In this particular example, the name is not very flattering and quite honestly, neither is the picture. But the taste will convince anyone that there is more to this dish than a silly name.

It is said that the original stew contained parsnips and white beans, and that the meat in the stew was mutton. How it came to be carrots with potatoes and beef.....only history knows. The carrot appeared in Holland for the first time in the 17th century, out of Iran, and was cross-polinated until it had a bright orange color, to honor the royal family, the Oranges. At that point, the carrot was introduced to the rest of Europe and hey presto! Long live the Queen and orange carrots for all!

As for the "slap piece": klapstuk is the meat that is cut from the rib. I used slices of beef chuck rib roast and it worked beautifully. The meat is marbled and during its 90 minute braising time will release all kinds of wonderful flavors and most of the fat. You'll love it!

Hutspot met klapstuk
For the meat
1 lb of sliced beef chuck rib roast
2 cups water
1/2 beef bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
8 black pepper corns, whole
1 tablespoon flour, dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Add the water to a Dutch oven or a braising pan, add the bouillon cube and stir until dissolved. Add the beef, the bay leaf and the pepper corns and braise on low heat for approximately 90 minutes or until beef is tender.

Remove the meat to a serving dish, discard the bay leaf and peppercorns and stir the dissolved flour into the pan juices. Stir scraping the bottom of the pan, loosening any meat particles that may be stuck. Bring the heat slowly up until the gravy starts to thicken. Pour the gravy over the meat and set aside, keeping it warm.

For the hutspot
6 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
8 large carrots, peeled and diced
4 large onions, peeled and sliced
2 cups of water
Pinch of salt

Place the peeled and quartered potatoes on the bottom of a Dutch oven. Pour in the water so the potatoes are just covered. Add the pinch of salt. Put the carrots on top, and finish with the onions. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and boil for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Pour off the cooking water, but save it. Mash the potatoes, carrots and onions until you achieve a mashed potato consistency or leave larger lumps, that's a personal preference. If you need more liquid to make it smoother, add a tablespoon of cooking liquid at a time. Taste, adjust with salt and pepper.



Now place a large scoop of hutspot on a warm plate. With the rounded side of a spoon, make an indentation on top of the hutspot, like a pothole. This is the famous "kuiltje". Put a slice of beef on top and pour a tablespoon or two of gravy into the kuiltje, and serve your beautiful, Dutch dish. All you need now is a pair of clogs and a picture of the Queen on the wall :-) Nah....not really.