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.

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