It's quite the summer in the Netherlands! Cold and rainy one day, and sunny and warm the next. It's of no surprise to the Dutch ofcourse, as often summers are a mixed bag of blessings, weatherwise. Nevertheless, no need to worry food-wise, as fresh fruit is abundantly available, and summer desserts often reflect the rich bounty of these lowlands. Strawberries, cherries and red currants preceed the rich apple and pear harvest in the fall, and neighboring countries supply any produce and fruits that the climate does not allow for.

This week's recipe is a traditional, old-fashioned dessert, made with a variety of summer berries and grains. It is a very convenient dish, given the season's fickle atmospheric conditions, as it can be served either cold or warm. The dessert is called krentjebrij, or watergruwel. Although a pleasant and filling dessert that is sometimes served as a main dish, its names do not entice one to grab a spoon and dig in. Neither name sounds appetizing, quite honestly, with the first one called a currant brij, i.e. a thick, sticky goop, and the other one named watergruwel or water revulsion....Gruwel however is an adaptation of the English word "gruel" meaning thin porridge, and not a description of aquatic abhorrence: not a practical attitude in a country that's partially below sea level!

Krentjebrij is also sold readily made in supermarket stores, in the dairy section, as one of the few non-dairy based products, under the name Bessola. When several years ago the company decided to take it off the market, as it wasn't selling as well as other desserts, a national uproar caused the company to rethink their decision.

Use a mix of fresh berries such as strawberries, red currants, raspberries and blackberries to simmer with the barley. Blend the rest of the fruit to mix in afterwards.

1/2 cup of pearl barley
1 1/2 cup of water
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup of raisins and currants
1 strip of lemon peel, no pith
4 cups of fresh mixed berries, chopped
1 cup of mixed berry juice
2 tablespoons of sugar

Rinse the pearl barley and bring to a boil with the 1,5 cups of water. Turn down to a simmer, add the cinnamon stick, the lemon peel, the dried fruits and a quarter cup of the fresh fruits, stir and let it simmer for forty minutes, or until the barley is soft. You may want to keep a little bit of water on the side to add, in case it needs more liquid.

When the barley is cooked (soft, with just a bit of a bite), add in the blended fruits, the sugar and add enough water to cover the barley, and simmer for another ten minutes. Taste (watch out, it's hot!), adjust the sweetness to your liking and remove the lemon peel and cinnamon stick.

Serve hot or cold. A splash of heavy cream will make this dessert even lovelier.


  1. Oh my, that brings back memories. My mom served it with thickened rooie bersen sap, not the actual fruit. I wasn't overly fond of it as a kid, but think I would like it now, for breakfast maybe, as we rarely eat dessert. Thanks for this recipe; I really enjoy this blog!

  2. I've been making this all week long. My husband and I are hooked. It's delicious.

  3. My dutch mother has been talking about this as the horror if her childhood for years. She still shudders and gags every time it is mentioned. I have to say that this recipe looks amazing and I am definitely going to try it...might even take her a bowl just for fun ;-)

  4. Oh yes, good old watergruwel! I started making this here (Edmonton, Canada) and just about everyone likes it. So we make it a couple times a year. I use your site quite a bit and your recipes are great. Thanks for all the great recipes and the stories!

  5. thanks so much my ex mother in law used to make this and I often think about it. Great to have the recipe!

  6. When do you use the 1 cup fruit juice? What type of fruit juice?

  7. We got to choose what to have for dinner on our birthdays when I was growing up.m This was one of our favourites, served hit. My Mom use blackcurrant juice, raisins and currents. So hood!!

  8. This was very much a staple in our house over Christmas (Aus, so summertime) ice cold out of the fridge. My Oma wouldn't use fruit juice though, ours was let down with Fanta and it's AMAZING and so refreshing.

  9. We used to call it "barley barf" lol I'm not sure why though as I remember liking it as a child


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