My grandpa Tinus always loved old-fashioned, hearty farm food: liverwurst, blood sausages, balkenbrij.... all those wintery, solid foods that for many of us belong to a different era. It is food that is not readily available at the butcher shop or grocery store anymore, except for a few artisan butchers that still take pride in producing local, traditional, old-fashioned products. But the other day, I ran into a lady of Dutch descent who told me that each year, she and her sisters make balkenbrij, another one of those offal dishes, for Christmas, at home. Much to the horror of everybody else, but they love it and enjoy the process of making and baking it.

The old days of home hog butchering and using up all the goodies is far removed from many of us, and we flinch at the thought of grinding up livers, chopping up kidneys or stirring buckets of blood into flour in order to make bakleverworst, balkenbrij or Dutch boudin, bloedworst. But there is nothing wrong with reaching back to the cooking of our grandparents, or great grandparents. Their cooking was honest, solid, and tasty. Remember, they didn't have all the fancy entertainment options we have nowadays, so food was something everybody looked forward to and was often a source of bringing people together.

One of those by-product foods is liverwurst, or leverworst. The Dutch like their leverworst and purchase it in a variety of options: as a soft, spreadable Braunschweiger-like leverworst for the lunch sandwich, a harder and sliceable ring-shaped leverworst as a cold snack, or in chunks and pickled in huge vats of vinegar (zure leverworst) and available from your local patatkraam or neighborhood fry shop. A not so familiar one is the bakleverworst, a solid liverwurst that you cut in thick slices, dip in flour and fry up in some butter. It's good eaten cold, after being fried, or warm on a slice of bread.

Embrace your inner grandparent and decide that this winter you are going to venture out and try some of these old traditional dishes from long ago. They are easy to make, and easy to keep.

2 lb pork liver
2 lb pork shoulder
5 slices of thick sliced smoked bacon
1 onion
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
1 bouillon cube
1/2 cup flour

Bring a large pot with water to a boil, add the bouillon cube or stock and lower to a simmer. Cut the liver and meat into cubes and simmer in the stock for fifteen minutes.

Grind the meat, batch for batch, in a food processor or meat grinder. Depending on whether you want a coarser grind or finer grind, you may have to put the meat through several times. I processed it twice to get a finer texture.

Chop the bacon into small dice and mix through the meat, add the spices and the flour. Mix together. Add a tablespoon of cooking liquid at a time to get a mixture moist enough to be malleable but still solid.
Measure out about 22 oz per sausage, a little bit more or less doesn't matter, just make sure they all have the same weight.

Place a piece of plastic food film on the counter, form the sausage and place it in the middle, lengthwise. Now take the ends of the film and tighten them up, rolling the sausage back and forth on the counter, until it's the right shape. Tighten a knot on each end, cut off the remaining film and wrap in another piece of food film, now wrapping it width-wise. Finish with wrapping each sausage lengthwise again, tying off the knots (see picture) and cutting the remaining film.

Bring a large pan with water to a boil, and place the sausages in the water. Make sure that all wrappings are watertight. Leave it simmering for an hour, remove and shock the liverwurst by placing it in a tray with ice cold water. Let it rest until cold (thirty minutes), unwrap and pat each sausage dry. Rewrap, and refrigerate or freeze for later use.

The next day, slice thick slices from the refrigerated liverwurst, dip them in flour and fry them brown and crispy on the outside. Butter a slice of bread, add the bakleverworst and yum!!! Good old fashioned winter food, love it!!

Bruine Bonensoep

"I don't pray for brown beans," little Bart said, pulling his plate away when his mother tried to serve him his dinner. Young Bart Bartels is not alone: few like the brown beans served as a vegetable because of its mushy texture. But put these tan pulses in a soup and you'll find that the texture contributes to a hearty, thick, wonderful stew. The typical Dutch brown cooking beans called "bruine bonen", or in Bartje's dialect from Drenthe, "bruune boon'n", are not available in the United States unless home-grown or purchased from a Dutch store.

Bartje was the main character in two books written by the author Anne de Vries, during the mid nineteen thirties. Bartje is a young boy who lives in a rural village in the province of Drenthe, in Holland's north-east. Brown beans were standard fare for the poor and during one episode, he refuses to say grace, as he's sick and tired of eating them. Needless to say, this earns him some spanking!

You will not encounter such rebellious behavior at the table when you serve this brown bean soup. If you're not able to find any, this soup will also work well with pinto or pink beans.

Bruine Bonensoep
2 cups of beans, dry
1 bay leaf
1 medium size onion, peeled
3 cloves, whole
1 leek, sliced
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup of diced celeriac root
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 handful of celery leaves, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
4 slices of bacon, diced
1 Kielbasa or 10 smokies

Wash, rinse and soak the beans the night before in sufficient water. The next day, drain, rinse and add to a cooking pot with enough water to cover the beans. Poke the cloves in the whole peeled onion, take the bay leaf and the thyme and add these items to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook the beans until done. This may take up to an hour or two, depending on the age of the beans.

When the beans are done, dispose of the onion, cloves, bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Take out two cups of cooked beans. Purée the rest of the beans. You may have to add some water or stock if the soup is too thick at this point. Add the remaining fresh vegetables and the bacon to the soup, and simmer for another twenty minutes. Add the kielbasa or the smokies after that until they're hot, and stir in the two cups of beans you've set aside earlier. If you're using kielbasa, remove it after ten minutes, slice it in thick chunks, then return the meat to the soup.

Taste, adjust with pepper and salt if needed, and serve hot with thick slices of whole wheat buttered bread. 


Coffee and pastries, pastries and coffee.....according to the Dutch, there is always a good reason to sit down, enjoy a cup of coffee (or any other hot beverage of choice) and a pastry to compliment the beverage, preferably in good company. The Dutch love their pastries, sweet rolls and slices of cake, like this sticky, sweet, raisin and pudding filled koffiebroodje.

Koffiebroodjes, or coffee rolls, as they are called, are sticky because they are covered with a sweet glaze. Sometimes the glaze is a powdered sugar base, sometimes an apricot jam one. This recipe showcases the latter.

Koffiebroodjes are available at local bakeries and supermarkets, and can also be found in the train stations kiosks.

With all the variety there is to chose from, the koffiebroodje has a little bit of an old-fashioned feel to it, but it doesn't make it any less appetizing. Instead of using pastry cream, I used a ready-to-use box of vanilla pudding. For a pastry cream recipe, look here.

Usually eaten at 11:00am on the coffee break or visit with the buuf, the neighbor lady, koffiebroodjes are easy to make, and great to share!

1/3 cup of raisins
1.5 cup of milk, lukewarm
2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
3.5 cups of flour
1/2 stick of butter, room temperature
5 tablespoons of sugar
1 splash of vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
For the cream
1 package of French vanilla pudding
1/3 cup of sour cream
For the glaze
2 tablespoons of apricot jam
1 tablespoon of warm water

Soak the raisins in warm water and set aside. Proof the yeast in the milk. Mix the flour with the sugar, then add the proofed yeast and milk, and mix together. Add the salt, the egg, the butter and the splash of vanilla and knead together into a supple dough. Cover and proof until doubled in size.

In the meantime, mix the pudding with half the required amount of liquid on the package. Stir in the sour cream.
Roll the dough out into a square, 12 x 12 inches approximately. Spread the vanilla pudding on the dough, leaving all sides uncovered. Sprinkle the raisins over the pudding. Now take the furthest end of the dough and roll it up towards you. Place it seam down and divide the roll into equal slices, of about an inch to an inch and a half wide.

Place the slices, cut side down on a silicone mat or parchment paper on a baking sheet. Cover and proof for at least twenty minutes or until the dough is puffy. Heat the oven to 350F and bake the rolls golden brown in 25 minutes or until done.

Mix the apricot jam with the warm water and brush the rolls when they come out of the oven. Brush them again when they've slightly cooled. Serve warm if possible.


Slavink, loosely translated as beat finch or lettuce finch, is one of the several ready-to-prepare foods that are available at the butcher store or in the meat department of a grocery store in Holland. It is also one of the more traditional meat options for lunch or dinner.

Slavink is a variation on the blinde vink, or blind finch, another meat product. Why these birds were chosen to name these products is not entirely sure, although it is thought that the size and roundness of the product reminds one of a small bird. Okay. It is true that in medieval times, out of sheer hunger, people would eat any bird they would catch, and I am sure finches were among the bounty, but more money could be made with selling the songbird to more affluent citizens.

To this day, vinkenzettingen, or finch singing competitions, are held in parts of Flanders, Holland and parts of Germany and France. The amount of songs the birds sing in an hour are counted and whomever had more songs wins. In the early days of these competitions, the birds would have their sight taken away to keep them from getting distracted and stop singing. This would be done rather cruelly. Later on, the cages would be "blinded" instead.

Another, more plausible explanation is the fact that the slavink was created by butcher Ton Spoelder, third generation butcher who opened a butcher store in Laren in 1951. Ton Spoelder decided, with Dutch practicality, that the cost of meat would reduce greatly if customers would come to the store to purchase their meat instead of having a fleet of young delivery boys running all over town. His innovative ideas were not only applied to store management, but also to developing new products, one of which was the slavink. It is thought that the name is an abbreviation of "slager's vink", butcher's finch.

Either way, you'll much prefer this meatroll to a itty-bitty feathery finch on your plate. The slavink, nor blinde vink, at the butcher's is not a bird: it is a small meatroll, wrapped in either bacon (slavink) or veal (blinde vink).

You can use bacon or pancetta for the slavink: the bacon used in Holland is not smoked so unless you can find fresh pork somewhere, select a bacon that is not overly smokey for best practices. I like to use a thicker sliced bacon and pound it flat between cling film to make the wrapping easier.

8 oz ground beef
8 oz ground pork
5 slices of bacon
2 tablespoons of bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of milk
1 tablespoon of butter

Mix the ground beef with the ground pork, and season to taste with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Knead in the breadcrumbs and the milk, and divide into five equal portions. Roll into small logs, approximately 3 1/2 inches long.

Place one side of the bacon on one end of the log and wrap the bacon around it. Leave the ends exposed. Roll the meat a couple of times with the palm of your hand to tighten it up. After you've done all five rolls, cover and refrigerate for about thirty minutes.

Retrieve the slavinken from the fridge about ten minutes before you are getting ready to cook them. Melt the butter in a frying pan. Place the slavinken carefully in the pan. Cook them on low-medium heat to avoid scorching the bacon. Turn them around, carefully, and cook the other sides, until all side are golden brown.

Remove the meat rolls from the pan, return it to the stove and stir in half a cup of water or a tablespoon or two of tomato ketchup, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen up all the crunchy bits.

Serve with boiled potatoes and a vegetable. Pour some of the pan gravy over the potatoes so they mash nicely.