Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!!

Wishing you a very happy 2013! May you have much love, good friends and great food!

Thank you for making this a great year!


The month of December is one of our sweetest and richest months, food-wise. We kick off the festivities with Sinterklaas and all his goodies, then move onto Christmas where we eat and indulge in more sweets, baked goods and candies, and we wrap up the year with Oudjaarsavond, New Year's Eve, where oliebollen and appelbeignets will be a mandatory part of the celebrations. Inbetween eating, cooking, baking and shopping, I sometimes crave just a simple bowl of good old-fashioned porridge. If it's later in the evening, I might indulge in some bierpap, but for a solid start of the day I often get a bowl of homemade Brinta.

Growing up in the Netherlands, a child's palate is subjected to a vast array of pap, or porridges. It usually starts out with Bambix, a creamy, sweet porridge of mixed grains that is mixed with milk and given to toddlers and preschoolers. It is comforting, velvety and has a tender and sweet taste.

When you're a little older and have been graced with teeth, regardless of whether you're sporting a "fietsenrek" or a full set of pearly whites, you traditionally "graduate" to a grown-up version of Bambix, a so-called porridge called Brinta.

Made only with whole wheat flour, Brinta could either make or break your day. If you were at the breakfast table the moment the hot milk was mixed in with the powdery flakes, life was good. If you were but five minutes late, to where the porridge had cooled considerably and the fibers had had an opportunity to soak up all the liquid, your lovely, warm, early morning breakfast was now fit for slicing. It had turned into a cold, lumpy, mushy bowl of wet concrete. Ewww!

Permission granted Brinta
Brinta, short for Breakfast Instant Tarwe (wheat), was created in the province of Groningen in 1944. The partially English name was given to the product as a tender (or commercially sound) gesture to the English and American armed forces who were stationed in our country during that time, and who were much more familiar with robuster breakfast grains. In 1963, the year of the coldest Elfstedentocht yet, the winner of this long distance skating event happened to mention that all he had had for breakfast was "een bordje Brinta" (a serving of Brinta porridge). The connection between sports and Brinta was made, and it continues to this day.

Since then, Brinta has expanded their product line with breakfast beverages, a variety of porridges or mush and even loaves of bread, all made with the goodness of whole wheat flour. It is available in Canada but not in the United States, unless you purchase it from a Dutch food importer. A similar product is possible to make at home.

3 tablespoons (25 grams) whole wheat unbleached flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) milk
2 cups (500 ml) milk
4 tablespoons (30 grams) whole wheat bran (optional, not in original product)
Pinch of salt

Mix the flour with the tablespoons of milk and make it into a paste. Bring the two cups of milk to a simmer, and stir in the flour paste. Stir to dissolve, and add in the (optional) whole wheat bran and the salt. Bring everything to a boil and continue to stir while the porridge thickens, for about five minutes. Depending on how thick or thin you like your pap, adjust the amount of bran accordingly!

Serve with brown or white sugar, and eat hot!


It's Christmas time, and this special time of year is celebrated in the Netherlands with good food, family visits and well....more good food. Old favorites are dusted off, new exciting dishes are being prepared and people look forward to spending some quality time together, and enjoying some good homecooking. During this time, an old-fashioned, traditional cake in the shape of a turban, or tulband is often baked. Usually, the tulband is a simple pound cake, but for Christmas it becomes a special treat.

Rich with butter, sugar and dried fruits, generous slices of this kersttulband are often served when enjoying the visit of a friend or family member. It is good by itself and will hold, because of its richness, for several days. Dress it up with a beautiful red bow and give it as a gift, or keep it for yourself and enjoy it during these holiday times! Red and green candied cherries give it a festive, Christmas-sy feel.

2 sticks butter, softened (225 gr.)
1 cup sugar (200 gr.)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
2 cups self-rising flour (300 gr.)
1/2 cup golden raisins (75 gr.)
1/2 cup dark raisins (75 gr.)
1/4 cup candied citron peel or chopped apricots (50 gr.)

Cream the butter and the sugars until they're fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and allow each one to incorporate before adding the next one. Sift the flour and carefully fold it into the buttery mix, but hold back one large tablespoon. Toss the dried fruits with that flour, then carefully fold everything into the batter.

Butter and flour a baking pan, either a turban one, or a Bundt pan. Spread the batter into the pan, and bake the cake for an hour in a 350F oven. When a toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done.

Drizzle the cake, when it has cooled down, with your favorite glazed frosting, or make one by mixing a cup of powdered sugar with a tablespoon of milk, and decorate with red and green candied cherries.

* If you don't have vanilla sugar, or can't find any, add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the batter.



This recipe first appeared in Dutch, Issue 8 November/December 2012                              
It is so cold outside! It's snowing and these dark days before Christmas sure makes me just want to curl up on the couch, grab a good book and hide from the elements. But no such luck! I need to head out in this weather to get some last-minute groceries, the Sunday  newspaper and maybe a stocking stuffer or two. Sinterklaas has come and gone, now it's time for the Kerstman!
With all the eating, baking, sampling and tasting that is going on these days in this household, there is very little need for a full meal. But a quick pick-me-up cup of soup during this time really hits the spot.
Today, I made a quick mosterdsoep, a mustard soup. A variety of regions in The Netherlands produce coarse grain mustards, like Doesburg, Groningen and the Zaanstreek area, all with a slight variation on flavor, coarseness and ingredients. It is a traditional item served with many of our foods: it's hard to imagine bitterballen or kroketten without mustard, or a gehaktbal on bread, without a generous lick of the creamy, dark yellow condiment.
Mosterdsoep is a velvety, creamy soup that tastes like, well, mustard. Select a coarse grain mustard if you can find it, preferably a Doesburgse or Zaanse Mosterd. If not, try something like Grey Poupon Harvest Coarse Ground mustard for a valid substitute. It is best with some crispy bacon garnish, and a slice of rustic bread.
1 small leek
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
4 tablespoons of coarse grain mustard

Wash and thinly slice the leek, white part only. Melt the butter in a pan and slowly sweat the vegetable. When it starts to release its lovely fragrance, stir in the flour to make a roux. Carefully continue to stir the butter and flour until it's come together, much like a paste, until it’s slightly golden. Now add the broth little by little, all the while stirring, making sure the roux incorporates all the liquid. Make sure there are no lumps. Bring to a boil, and boil for a good five minutes, until the soup thickens slightly. Turn down the heat to simmer, stir in the mustard and stir slowly until it dissolves. Taste. Adjust the flavor with some more mustard or a bit of salt if needed. 

Mosterdsoep can be served as is, or with some crispy bacon as a garnish.


The Christmas season is one of many gezellige evenings together. We take the time to visit with friends and family over coffee and a slice of banketletter or a piece of speculaas. Or we spend some needed alone time, going through the many recipe magazines available, to plan our Christmas menu while nibbling on some leftover kruidnoten from Sinterklaas.

This season has some of the richest baked goods: they're heavy on sugar, dried fruits and nuts. Many of these traditional recipes stem from the times that families would bring out their best items out of food storage to share with each other. The best sausages, hams and dried meats would appear on the table, together with specialty items such as oranges and other exotic luxuries. This was a serious time to celebrate!

It is also a time of rich, luxurious breads. Kerststol, a rich buttery bread studded with dried fruits and almond paste, is found in stores and bakeries during this time of year. Many a breakfast or morning coffee will include a slice of buttered stol, just to set the mood. Christmas is celebrated during two days, the 25th and 26th of December, and is a great way to showcase your cooking and baking skills by inviting friends and family to come and celebrate with you!

A regional, rich bread that used to appear during these festive days but is now available year-round, is the duivekater. Predominantly present in the province of North-Holland, in the Amsterdam area and the Zaanstreek, the duivekater is a rich, sweet white bread, flavored with lemon zest and is lovely by itself or toasted and served with a lick of butter. The real interesting part about the bread is the shape: it is thought that the duivekater was a sacrificial offering, from Germanic origen, a bread that replaced an actual, physical sacrifice to the gods. If the gods were pleased, the devil would stay away. As the bread is shaped like a bone, a shinbone perhaps, it is assumed that the bread replaced an animal offering (kater = tomcat) . The richly decorated body of the bread represents the shaft, and both ends are shaped like medials, or the lumpy bits at the end of a bone.

But let's not dwell on that too much! The bread is represented throughout history on several paintings by Jan Steen and Pieter Aerts, and although it has lost some of its popularity, it can still be found in the Zaanstreek, albeit less decorated. It's a heavy, sweet, dense white bread, with a wonderful hint of lemon.

3 cups cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons powdered milk
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Zest of one lemon
1 egg

Mix the two flours. Warm the milk, add the yeast and a pinch of sugar, set aside to proof. In the meantime, mix in the rest of the sugar, the powdered milk and the salt with the flours. When the yeast is bubbly, mix it in with the flours. Depending on whether you're a light or heavy scooper, you may need to add a little bit of milk to make it a pliable, workable dough. Add the butter and lemon zest, and knead the dough until it's pillowy and soft, but not sticky. Oil a bowl, add the dough and cover for its first rise.

Knead the dough a second time and shape it into a log. Cover and let it rest for five minutes. Now cut about 2 inches on each side and curl the dough inwards (like on the picture) or outward, whichever you prefer, you are trying to achieve something that vaguely looks like a bone.

Cover the bread and let it rise a second time, for about thirty minutes. Make decorative slashings in the rest of the bread and brush the whole bread with egg.

Heat the oven to 400F. Bake the loaf for 25 minutes or until done inside (190F and rising!). If the bread browns too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil until you reach the desired internal temperature.

Cool the bread, slice, slather with butter, sit back and relax. Best enjoyed with a cup of coffee and a couple of good friends.



Some foods don't sound very appetizing. Take for instance today's ingredient, zuurkool. Sour or soured cabbage just doesn't quite do it for the ol' appetite now, does it?

Nevertheless, the fermented white cabbage is a staple in the Dutch kitchen. Especially during colder winter days this vegetable can really brighten your day in a zuurkoolschotel with mashed potatoes and a smoked rope sausage, or in an island dish called siepeltjespot, made with potatoes, ground beef, sauerkraut and cranberries. And not just in the winter: sauerkraut lends a crisp, slightly tangy side to summery salads, or a surprising flavor to soups.

Zuurkool is said to have originated with the Tartars, a roaming group of Mongols, who formed part of Genghis Khan's army in the early 13th century. Whole cabbages don't travel well in saddle bags for obvious reasons, so they would cut them up in strips and transport them that way. The salt of the horse's perspiration would soak through the bags and trigger the cabbage to start fermenting and hey presto! zuurkool was invented. These culinary conquistadors are also presumably responsible for the invention of the steak tartare.

From China, where pickled cabbage became a big hit, it traveled to the Romans and Greek cultures, who fermented the zuurkool in wooden barrels, and on to the rest of the European cultures. Zuurkool, because of its high amount of vitamin C, would also travel well on ships and seafaring expeditions and help avoid scurvy.

The Netherlands produces on average about 45 million pounds of the sour cabbage: it's a very popular item! In the old days, many Dutch households would have a stone crock in the basement and make their own zuurkool, nowadays it's bought fresh from the produce market or in the grocery store. Here is a quick video from 1948 where you can see how it was made in factories back then. But we're spread out all over the world, and sometimes zuurkool is hard to come by, so we're going to make our own!

It is an easy item to make, although it does require patience and some light monitoring.  And you'll be pleased to know that no sweaty horses are needed! Some cuisines add juniper berries, herbs or white wine, but the Dutch prefer theirs just made plain, with only salt, but you are welcome to experiment!

5 lbs white cabbage (about 2 large heads)
10 teaspoons pickling salt, kosher or sea salt*

Remove a few outer leaves on each head. Cut the cabbages in half, remove the core and slice the cabbage very thin. You can do this on a mandolin (be careful!!) or with a chef's knife.

Take a clean container: I use a pickle jar as you can see in the picture, but a stone crock or any other jar will work just fine. Wash and rinse it so that it's clean and dry. Place one or two whole leaves on the bottom of the jar. Weigh out 8 ounces of sliced cabbage and add it to the jar. Use a sauerkraut tamper or a potato masher or other blunt instrument to push down the cabbage. Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt on top. Layer with another 8 ounces of sliced cabbage, push down well, sprinkle salt. Repeat until the jar is packed, and finish with another two or three whole leaves. 

The salt will start pulling liquid from the bruised cabbage and soon (although this could take up to 24 hours), the cabbage will be sitting in its own, salty, juice. Perfect!

Push the cabbage down as it will be wanting to float. Use a clean, inverted dish with a rock on top like they did in the old days or join the 21st century. I use a large foodsafe zipped bag that I fill with water. It weighs down the cabbage, flexible enough to cover every nook and cranny but is light enough to let any gases escape. The key is to have the cabbage submerged!

If there is not enough water to cover all the cabbage after 24 hours, carefully salt a cup of water with 2 teaspoons pickling or kosher salt, stir it until it's dissolved and add to the pot.

Let the crock sit on the counter for two days. Then move it out to a cooler part of the house, maybe the basement or the pantry. Make sure no pests, dirt or debris can get into the pot. As you're fermenting cabbage, gases will appear and create a slightly sour smell: that's a good sign!

After about three to four weeks, the zuurkool should be done. We'll make a traditional Terschelling dish with it!

 * Do not use iodized or table salt as it is usually laced with other ingredients: use only sea, kosher or pickling salt.

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These are busy times. Sint Maarten hasn't even left the building, figuratively speaking, and the next Saint is already eager to step forward and take his place. Set aside the wafels of Sint Maarten, because now it's time for Sint Nicolaas kruidnoten, speculaas and borstplaat!

But all that sweetness sometimes leaves you wanting for something else. Not a full meal, not a sit-down affair, but a quick pick-me-up. A hot, savory something to gulp down, before you get back on your bike and rush out to get some more Sinterklaas gifts, ingredients to make gevulde speculaas or some of those horrible-but-can't-stop-eating-them "kikkers en muizen", sugar-filled chocolatey candy in the shape of frogs and mice, wrapped in aluminum foil overalls. (Yes, you read that right, they are wearing bright-colored overalls. Why? I have no clue, but I'll try and find out!)

How about a savoury, steaming cup of mushroom soup instead?

The fact that mushroom soup is one of Holland's traditional soups is hardly surprising. Since the start of the first mushroom production in 1825, the country has become the third largest mushroom grower in the world. The fields of northern Limburg, Noord-Brabant and Gelderland proved to contain the perfect growing conditions and these provinces produce almost 94% of its national total. Nowadays, mushrooms are grown in very controlled and covered environments.

Creamy mushroom soup is therefore, next to tomato soup and split pea soup, one of the favorite choices for a cold, winter day!

1 lb mushrooms
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup onion, diced
1/3 cup celery, sliced
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
4 parsley sprigs, stems and leaves separated
Pinch of freshly chopped thyme
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
½ cup heavy cream

Wash and slice the mushrooms, keeping one mushroom whole. Melt the butter in a pan, and slowly sweat the onions and the celery in the fat, until the vegetables are soft. Add the mushrooms and the thyme, stir several times while they slowly release their juices and gain flavor.

When the mushrooms are soft, remove about half a cup for garnish and set this aside. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables in the pan and stir several times, so that they’re coated and slowly add in the stock. Keep stirring to make sure all the flour is dissolved. Bring to a boil, then turn to a slow simmer.  Take the whole mushroom and stick the bay leaf to it with the help of the two cloves. Add it to the soup, as well as the parsley stems. Simmer for twenty minutes.

Take out the whole mushroom, remove the bay leaf and the cloves and chop the mushroom in pieces, and return it to the soup. Use a stick blender to purée the soup to a fine consistency. Taste. Stir in the heavy cream and warm the soup, but do no longer boil. Taste again. Adjust seasonings to your liking. If you have it, a drop of sherry will do this soup good.  Add in the remaining mushroom slices, garnish with some chopped parsley leaves and serve hot.


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Sint Maarten Wafels

November 11th is an important date in Holland. For children, it marks St. Maarten's day, the day kids venture out in the evening carrying small candles in paper lanterns to sing songs at neighbors' doors and get candy or fruit in return. For the grownups, "the eleventh of the eleventh" at 11:11am initiates the beginning of the famous Carnaval season. It is the day that the new Prince Carnaval is elected, who in turn announces his "adjudant" or helper, and the "Raad van Elf", the eleven organizers who will be tasked with setting up parties, parades and ofcourse, determine the theme of this year's carnaval. The number 11 has, since old times, been the number for fools and simpletons.

But back to St. Maarten, one of the most recognizable saints in Catholicism. For him November 11 wasn't such a good day, as that is the day he was buried. On his way to somewhere, St Maarten saw a poor beggar by the side of the road who needed protection from the cold. St. Maarten cut his coat in two and gave the man one half. That night, in his dreams, he had a vision of Jesus wearing half of his cape. The next day, the cape was miraculously restored.

The beginnings of this ritual were originally pagan (carrying lit candles or "holy" fire around the neighborhood at dark was part of a fertility ritual that was a widespread custom in Western Europe at the time) or traditionally religious in nature (on November 11, the reading of the Bible is verse 11:33 of the book of Luke, ""No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.").

Either way, it was a begging fest, much needed during the lacking winter months, and definitely a festivity for the poor, as one song indicates:

Hier woont een rijk man,
Here lives a rich man
Die ons wat geven kan.
Give us something sure he can
Geef een appel of een peer:
Give an apple or a pear
We komen ’t hele jaar niet meer.
We won't come around for another year

As with many things, these festivities usually find place in the southern, mostly Catholic, region of the country. The kids in the northern regions, however, have caught on to this free candy thing and now, too, stroll the dark nights. After having collected enough candy the kids gather with their parents at the town square where a huge bonfire is lit to celebrate the end of the evening. Most paper lanterns end up in the bonfire, and children are handed hot chocolate and waffles to warm up.

Whether you're out and about this evening, or staying home, these yeast waffles are tasty and, because of the egg whites, surprisingly light.

St Maarten Wafels
2 cups flour
2 cups milk, warm
2 teaspoon dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 stick (60 gr.) butter
2 teaspoons brandy (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 sachet vanilla sugar)

Mix the flour and the milk into a batter, and fold in the yeast. (Alternatively, you can also sprinkle the yeast on the milk and let it proof, then mix it in with the flour). Let proof for ten minutes, then stir the batter once or twice, and add the sugar and salt. Stir again. Split the two eggs. Beat the egg yolks and stir them into the batter. Cover and let the batter sit for thirty minutes in a warm spot. In the meantime, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, and melt the butter. Let the butter cool, but do not let it solidify.

When the batter is showing signs of yeast activity (the batter will show bubbles, like in the picture above), carefully stir in the melted butter, holding one tablespoon back for the waffle iron. Add the vanilla extract and the brandy to the batter. Fold in the egg whites carefully, to lighten and thin the batter. You are now ready to bake!

Heat the waffle iron, lightly grease it if necessary and bake waffles golden. Sprinkle with some powdered sugar and serve warm. Makes about 12 waffles.

Happy St. Maarten!

St. Hubertusbroodjes

I love old traditions, especially ones that involve food. As luck has it, the month of November leads into a whole Saint-related food fest, with Saint Nicholas as a culmination in early December.

Today, November 3rd, is St. Hubertus day. St. Hubertus was born in and around the early 650s and was an avid hunter. On Good Friday, when he chose to go hunting instead of attending church, he came across a huge deer in the woods. The animal displayed a burning cross between its antlers and the voice of God spoke: "Hubert, turn your life around or else!" Or something to that extent.

Long story short, Hubert listened, moved to Maastricht, eventually was elected bishop and became the patron saint of archers, huntsmen, mathematician and a myriad of others. He's probably most famous for being invoked to combat rabies, as he presumedly once healed a dog from rabies by performing the sign of the cross over the animal's head.

It also inspired the tradition of applying a heated key called St. Hubertus key to the animal's forehead, after which it had to stay in confinement for nine days and only be fed dry bread. This is presumably where the St. Hubertus rolls tradition started: a soft, white roll, sometimes with raisins or anise, but most often plain, with a cross cut in the top was baked by hundreds of bakers during this time, blessed by the church on November 3rd and consumed by both dog and owner.

Bakeries in a variety of locations in the Brabant province will sell thousands of St. Hubertus rolls (also known as hupkes, huipkes or hubkes) today, rolls that earlier that morning have been blessed by the local Catholic clergy. People of all ages will enjoy a huupke today, and are sure to give a piece to their dogs as well. Better a roll in the mouth than a key on the forehead, I say!

If you don't have dogs or don't believe in tradition, this recipe is also good for just a plain, soft white roll. Increase the weight on the roll to 2 1/2 oz.

St. Hubertusbroodjes
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2  1/2 cups milk, warm
4 oz butter
1 egg

Proof the yeast in the warm milk. Mix the flour with the salt, add the milk and knead together, adding in the butter and the egg as you go. Knead it all together into a soft dough, let it rise to double its size,  punch it down and cut into 1.5 oz portions.

Roll each piece of dough into a tight ball, place them side by side in a buttered baking pan. Cover and let rise. Preheat an oven to 400F.

Right before baking the rolls, cut the top of the dough from left to right, and top to bottom. Bake for 10-15 minutes until done, then brush with some butter when the rolls come hot out of the oven.

Optional: some Hubertusbroodjes have raisins or currants in them, which you can add after having kneaded the butter and the egg into the dough. Others have a slight anise flavor: add two tablespoons of gestampte muisjes to the flour before you mix in the rest.



There are certain Dutch joys that cannot be explained, such as after bicycling home from school, a cup of hot split pea soup in your gloveless, cold hands. Or sitting on the cold shoulder on the side of the canal, taking a break from skating, with a mug of hot chocolate and a gevulde koek. Going to oma's on Sunday and smelling the groentesoep on the stove....... 

Just simple things that make you happy to be alive. Often it's the memories that make the food special. Sometimes food doesn't have any memories, but it just tastes good. Like today's kibbeling.

The last time I recall eating kibbeling was at a fish vendor's cart on one of the many beaches that Holland is rich. I can't remember which one, or what business it was. All I remember was the sun on my face, the slight salty breeze in my hair and a plate of hot, greasy fish nuggets on my lap. Bliss!

For the batter, you can use milk, sparkling water, or beer.  

A fairly modern development with kibbeling is the use of a spice mix. Most fish vendors will have their own personalized mix, but there are a few commercial mixes on the market. The main ingredients are salt, white pepper, paprika, ground mustard, curry powder, nutmeg, onion powder, and dried herbs, such as dill or parsley. If you can't find any on the market, see if you can get a start with those ingredients. Season a piece of fish, batter and fry it, and see how it tastes. It may take a few times to get the right mix per your preference. Or see if your favorite fish vendor will sell you some of his or her own mix - doesn't hurt to ask.

2 lbs (1 kg) whiting or cod
1 cup (150 grams) flour
1/2 cup (125 ml) milk
1/2 teaspoon dried dill or parsley
1 teaspoon paprika powder
Pinch of onion powder, dried mustard, curry
Kibbeling spice mix (see above)
Pinch of salt and pepper

For the remoulade dipping sauce:
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon capers, chopped
2 dill pickles, chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Dry the fish on both sides and cut into two-inch pieces. Dust the pieces with the spice mix, then with a tablespoon of the flour. Make a thick batter with the rest of the flour and milk, salt, and pepper. Add a little bit of milk if it's too thick.

Heat your fryer to 350F or heat oil in a cast-iron pan on the stove. Try a little piece of fish first: dip it in the batter and fry until golden. Taste it and adjust the seasonings to your liking.

Put the rest of the fish in the batter, turn it over so that both sides are covered, and drop it in the hot oil, a few pieces at a time. Fry to a golden brown, remove from the oil, and place it on paper towels to drain the fat.

Mix the mayo with the capers, chopped pickles, and parsley. Taste. Adjust with salt and pepper if desired, and add a little bit of pickle juice if it's too thick.

Serve the pieces of kibbeling when they’re hot, and serve the dipping sauce on the side. Even kids will love the taste of this fried fish, so make plenty!



Each season has its charms: in the winter we embrace heavy dishes of stamppot and erwtensoep, and we break the heavyness in the spring when we enjoy the first bounty of the land with white asparagus and early strawberries. The summer regales us with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the fall is host to mussels and a variety of apple dishes.

But nothing smells as good as this time of year, when we start preparing for the upcoming holidays of Sinterklaas and Christmas.  Enticing autumnal aromas waft from the kitchen as we bake taai taai, kruidnoten en gevulde speculaas. The fragrance bouquet of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger is one that belongs to this season, and neighbors will be wondering what you're up to, hoping for a taste of whatever it is you're baking!

Today's recipe, the humble speculaas cookie, is a great and welcome gift to those same neighbors, and will hold you over with a cup of coffee while you're waiting for the next tray to come out of the oven. It's also a good way to test your mix of speculaaskruiden, speculaas spices, and see if some spices need adjusting if you are going to do additional baking this season. Speculaaskruiden are used for speculaas, gevulde speculaas and even apple pie!

The dough will hold several days in the fridge, so there is no need to bake everything at once. Makes approximately 75 cookies. You can use cookie cutters or the more traditional speculaas molds, wooden boards that are cut out with traditional figures. If you do, dust your board well and make sure the dough is stil fairly cold so it doesn't stick to the board. Here's a video on how to accomplish this:

2 sticks butter
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup speculaas spices**
1/4 cup buttermilk

Cream the butter with the sugar and the salt. Sift the flour with the baking powder and the spices and knead it into the butter. Use the milk to make it to a rollable, but slightly stiff dough, it is not allowed to stick to your hands! Wrap the dough in plastic film and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, warm the oven to 325F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Divide the dough in four pieces. Re-wrap three and return them to the fridge.

Dust the counter with a little bit of flour and roll out the dough. Cut out shapes* (I used a windmill cookie cutter but you are welcome to use any kind you fancy) and place them on the parchment. When you're done, return the baking sheet briefly to the fridge for about ten minutes, then place in the oven and bake. The cookies are done after about twenty minutes.

Cool on a rack.

* If you don't have any cookie cutters you like, just cut cookies the size of a business card, about 2 x 3.5 inches. You can sprinkle some slivered almonds on top if you wish.

** ** For the spices: start with 2 heaping tablespoon of ground cinnamon. Mix in a 1/2 scant teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon scant ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon mace and 1/4 teaspoon white ground pepper and, if you have it, 1/4 teaspoon of dried orange peel. If you like the flavor of anise, add a 1/4 teaspoon of ground anise to give it a special twist. Smell and decide if you like it. Too much clove? Add in a bit more cinnamon. Prefer more ginger? Feel free to add some more. You are welcome to make it your very own, but make sure you write down the quantities and ingredients so you can replicate your personal recipe. Store in an airtight jar.

Rijst met krenten

Holland is a great country to grow up in, as a child. Besides plenty of playgrounds in the many parks the country is rich, we have fabulous theme parks like the Efteling or Madurodam, and hands-on museums like Evoluon, where you can learn, explore and just enjoy being a kid.

But one of the best parts of growing up in Holland is being able to read, or being read, Jip and Janneke stories. These creations, from industrious and talented Annie M.G. Schmidt, are short and witty tellings about two neighbors: Jip (a boy) and Janneke (a girl) with fantastic illustrations by Fiep Westendorp. And this month, they celebrate their 60th anniversary!

The stories started as weekly publications in the Het Parool newspaper in 1952, but quickly gained a following. The stories are short, simple and sweet. Jip and Janneke celebrate their birthdays, bake an Easter bread, visit grandma or stay up until midnight on New Years Eve. Nothing grand, nothing overly adventurous, but just two small kids living life.

Most everyone that grew up with Jip and Janneke has a favorite story. Mine is the one where Janneke's family is having company over and Jip and Janneke admire the cake that will be served after coffee. Jip smells the cake and says it is wonderful, upon which Janneke wants to smell it too. But she is a little too hasty and her little nose disappears in the frosting, leaving a small hole. After their initial dismay, they decide to make a row of small holes by sticking their noses in the cake, all along the outside. So cute!!!

Another story, and one that I used to base the recipe on today is the "rice with raisins" dog: the common nickname for a Dalmatian. Jip and Janneke visit a farm and see this huge dog, upon which Janneke exclaims; "It's a rice-and-raisins dog!" because of its white coat and black dots. The dish itself is an old-fashioned, easy to prepare and enjoyed by all, cold weather dessert.

If currants are not easy to come by, you can easily replace them with dark raisins.

Rijst met krenten
1 cup short grain rice
4 cups milk
1/2 vanilla bean
3 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons sugar

Wash the rice until it rinses clear. Pour the milk on the rice and bring slowly to a boil, add the vanilla bean, a pinch of salt, the raisins and the sugar. Slowly simmer until the rice is cooked, about twenty minutes. Remove the bean, taste and adjust with sugar, or a little bit of cinnamon, and serve warm.

Optional: pour the rice in ramekins, sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon and place under the broiler so that the sugar melts and hardens for a crunchy topping.



Poffertjes... the name alone invokes visions of carnivals, festivities and palatal pleasure. Even saying it brings joy to the vocal cords. You can't say poffertjes (POH-fur-tjes) without a smile on your face, try it!

Poffertjes are an integral part of national holidays, summer festivals and fun celebrations. During the Christmas and New Year season, you will find poffertjes vendors on every Christmas market, usually right next to that other holiday treat, oliebollen. 

A recipe for poffertjes (also known as bollebuisjes or broedertjes) first appears in a cookbook from the mid 1700s. Made exclusively with buckwheat flour, water and yeast, it was considered a poor man's meal. Buckwheat only grows on arid, poor ground and provided poor farmers with the necessary substance. And you can see why: a plate full of hot pancakes, covered with powdered sugar and a rapidly melting piece of butter will give anybody enough energy to get back out there and take on the weather elements. Later recipes call for wheat flour, milk and eggs, but always keep yeast as a leavener which gives it its puffiness.

When the Dutch settlers came to America, they brought the poffertjes and the pan they're made in with them. In James Eugene Farmer's book "Brinton Eliot, from Yale to Yorktown" we read: "On the evening of the 4th of May, Jans and Hybert Weamans were seated near the trap-door of the cellar, smoking, drinking beer, and eating puffards from the puffet-pan." Puffards, puffets, bollebouches.......they're all the same name for our beloved poffertjes.

Made on a dimpled cast iron pan for the home cook, or commercially on large copper dimpled plates as seen in the pictures below, poffertjes can also be made at home on a griddle if you don't have a poffertjespan. Just place tablespoons of batter on the slightly greased surface and turn them with the tine of a fork when the outside rim has dried up a bit and bubbles come to the surface. Their name comes from the way these small pancakes act once you turn them over: they puff up.

Traditionally served with powdered sugar and a healthy chunk of butter, poffertjes are a welcome treat!

The buckwheat flour we have access to here in the United States is much darker than the light, white version that is used in northern Europe. If you can find it, substitute half of the flour for light buckwheat flour. There is a link under Shop For This Recipe.

1 cup (250 ml) warm milk
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
2 eggs
Pinch salt
Powdered sugar

Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm milk and set aside to proof. When ready, mix the flour with the eggs and slowly add the milk, beating well and making sure there are no lumps. Add in the pinch of salt. Cover and set aside to rise, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Heat the pan and lightly butter each dimple. Pour a small amount of batter into each dimple. I prefer to pour the batter in a squeeze bottle of which I have removed part of the tip: it allows me to control the amount of batter for each dimple.

When the sides dry up a bit and bubbles appear on the surface, use the tin of a fork to flip the poffertjes over. Take a peek here if you're not sure how to do this! This takes a bit of practice, but not to worry, even the spoils will taste good!

Serve hot, sprinkle with powdered sugar and a piece of butter.

Shop for this recipe


It's Fall!!! Time to fire up the oven again, as the evenings get colder and, for that matter, the mornings too. But, first a side note. A comment from a reader last week brought an interesting fact to mind, one that has had me puzzled for quite some time. For some obscure reason, Americans confuse Dutch with Danish. I'm not entirely sure if they do it the other way around too, as I don't know any Danish people around here that I can ask.

The thing is, I have encountered it so much, and in such different age groups, that I am beginning to think that it's taught in school. I cannot explain it otherwise.

Nevertheless, every time somebody asks me if I'm Danish or speak Danish, I can't help but think of pastries. I know it's silly, because I've been to Denmark several times and have very dear friends living there. Surely I could think of many other things besides baked goods, but no.....pastries it is. I can't help it!

Danish pastries are very similar in texture to puff pastry. Loaded with butter, they nevertheless have a light and layered presentation and pair well with fruits and custards. A traditional Dutch Danish therefore would be a koffiebroodje, or for something fruitier, an appelflap, or apple turnover. And as it happens, the orchard down the road just emailed to say that the apples are ripe for appelflappen it is!

This is a typical pastry that you will find in bakeries, and places where they serve coffee and tea. It's crispy, sweet and filled with the goodness of apples.

2 tablespoons currants
2 tablespoons raisins
1/2 cup apple juice
3 dried apricots
2 Jonagold apples
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
1 lb puff pastry (or one Pepperidge Farm package)
Coarse sugar

Add the currants and the raisins to the apple juice. Put the dried apricots in a small cup and add enough warm water to cover. Soak the currants, raisins and apricots overnight, or at least for a good four hours.

Allow the puff pastry to thaw, while you peel and core the apple. Chop the apple in small pieces. Drain the raisins and currants and add to the apples, stir. Mince the apricots until almost a pulp and fold it into the apple mixture, then add the sugar and the cinnamon and stir until everything is well mixed. Set aside.

Unfold the puff pastry and cut into squares, 4.5 x 4.5 inches approximately. Place them before you with one corner pointing downwards. Place about 1/4 cup of filling on the bottom half of the square, wet the edges of the dough and fold the top part over, forming a triangle. Carefully press the dough around the filling and on the edges, making sure they are tight.

Place the triangles on some parchment paper on a baking sheet and place it in the fridge while you turn on the oven. Heat to 385F.

Remove from the fridge, and moisten the top of each triangle with some water, then sprinkle the coarse sugar on top. Place the baking sheet on the middle shelf in the oven, and bake the turnovers for 20 minutes or until golden.

Makes 8.


Tongrolletjes met garnalensaus

For a country that's partially below sea level, surrounded by the North Sea and with a history of seafaring daredevils, you'd think we'd eat fish every day. Or if not every day, at least more often than we do. Perhaps it's because there are so many exciting things to eat from the Dutch waters that we don’t know which one to pick: mussels, eel, herring, oysters, clams, trout or plaice. This last one, during the yearly fish auction at Urk, fetched a record 63,000 Euros this summer. Often, fish companies will auction off the first catch of the season for a good cause. It gives people an opportunity to travel out to the regional auction houses and spend the day enjoying food, festivities and fun.

Sole is a fish that's traditionally caught in the North Sea, and one of the national delicacies. Its taste is not overly fishy but tends to lean towards a more shrimp-like flavor, and goes especially well with the shrimp sauce that today's recipe calls for. The meat holds up well, and the fish is suitable for a variety of cooking methods: grilling, steaming, frying or stewing. If you cannot find sole or if the price is prohibitive, try flounder instead.

Tongrolletjes in garnalensaus
8 pieces sole
2 cups fish stock
1 cup white wine
1 carrot, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
4 peppercorns
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cocktail shrimp
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

Dry the fish and roll each one up, holding it together with a toothpick. Bring the fish stock to a boil, add the wine, the vegetables and the herbs and simmer for ten minutes. Carefully lower the rolled up flounder into the stock and simmer for six minutes, then remove them and drain. Pour the stock through a metal strainer to remove the vegetables and herbs.

In a skillet, melt the butter and the flour and stir together into a paste. Slowly add in the stock and stir well, breaking up any lumps, into a thick sauce. Taste and adjust with salt and a little bit of pepper. Fold in the shrimp. Remove the toothpicks, arrange the flounder rolls in an oven dish, pour the shrimp sauce on top and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over it. Place in a 350F oven for ten minutes or until hot, then toast the breadcrumbs to a golden crisp under the broiler.
Great with steamed rice and sautéed spinach.

Dutch butter

My time in England is winding down. I've been on a discovery tour of the British kitchen: fabulous cheeses, great baked goods and plenty of good butter. As always, out of curiosity, I wonder how much of an influence the Dutch kitchen has had on the English one. After all, there is only a small stretch of water between the two monarchies and they've often spent time sailing the seas together.

In the mid-1500's, Dutch and Flemish protestants fled religious persecution and arrived in Norwich, close to the east coast of England. Over time, close to 6,000 "strangers", as the Dutch were called because of their different clothing and customs, settled around the area. But they did not only bring clothing and customs, they also brought their own pots, pans (such as a frying pan) and dishes. In the book The North Sea and Culture (1550-1800), part of a letter from Claus van Werveken from Norwich to his wife says: "Bring a dough trough, for there are none here.....Buy two little wooden dishes to make up half pounds of butter: for all the Netherlanders and Flemings make their own, for here it is all pigs' fats."

Imagine that. We presumably introduced butter to Norwich. We brought frying pans. Can you visualize the possibilities?! Lard is good, but butter is so much better. It warms my heart to think that such small items of comfort made these refugees feel at home in their new country, and that it left a lasting culinary contribution.

The picture is of a Limburg dish called Kruimelvlaai, or better known in the Venlo dialect as "bôttervlaaj", butter pie. On a cold, rainy and dark day like today, it's seems like an appropriate pie to salute these friendly "strangers" with, and thank them for introducing this significant spread.