Sunday, July 8, 2018

Rode Bessensaus

In a traditional Dutch household, as soon as dinner is over, the plates are cleared (although some families will also use their dinner plate for dessert, so as to save washing more dishes!) and the various cartons of vla, yogurt, pudding or pap make their way to the table. Very often, a variety of choices are available as each family member tends to favor one flavor of another: I for one loved hopjesvla, but could also appreciate a creamy vanillevla or chocoladevla!

Together with the dairy cartons, a smaller glass bottle will make its appearance. It contains a thick, red liquid. Now watch the people at the table. As the bottle is passed from one person to the other and makes its way around the table, those that have not yet been able to pour some of its contents on their dessert, guard it closely to make sure nobody takes more than their share, and that there is something left for them! And no wonder, because this small bottle holds Tova, a puddingsaus, also known as "toversaus", magic sauce, because of its name and its possibilities to change your dessert into something even better!

Image result for tova dessertsaus
Source: Albert Heijn
Nowadays, Tova puddingsaus is called dessertsaus, and is meant specifically for that: ice cream, vla, pap, yogurt and even pancakes. Tova has been around for almost a hundred years and is still popular today. It used to be produced by the De Betuwe fruit company from Tiel, where Flipje the mascot came from. Nowadays, Tova is produced by the international Hero company.

The sauces used to come in many flavors: strawberry, cherry, chocolate, banana.....but the most favorite sauce tended to be the red berry sauce, rode bessensaus. It was sweet and slightly acidic at the same time, perfect for cutting through sweet dairy desserts, and often specifically served with farina pudding, griesmeelpudding or buttermilk pudding, karnemelkpudding. Nowadays, Hero limits its production to strawberry, raspberry, caramel and chocolate.

Bessensaus is traditionally made from aalbessen, fresh red currants (ribes rubrum), but can also be prepared with a mixture of red currants, strawberries or raspberries, if currants are hard to come by.

Bessensaus
4 cups freshly picked currants (about 450 grams)
1/4 cup water (60 ml)
1/4 cup sugar ( 85 grams)
1 vanilla bean (optional

Pick the stems from the currants, wash the berries and add them to a thick bottomed pan with the 1/4 cup of water, sugar and the vanilla bean. After ten minutes, remove the vanilla bean, split it down the middle and scrape the seeds out. Return the seeds to the pan, as well as the remainder of the vanilla bean. Simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes, until the berries have softened and released their juice.

Remove the vanilla bean. Pour the berries and the liquid into a sieve and use a spatula or wooden spoon to squash the berries through the sieve into a bowl. The seeds and skins remain in the sieve, and you should have a thick berry sauce in the bowl. If the sauce is too watery, return it to the pan and reduce it, or thicken it with a little bit of cornstarch. If you dip a spoon into the sauce and are able to draw a line on the back of the spoon with your finger, it is thick enough.

Taste the sauce and decide if you want it sweeter. If so, add a bit more sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. You can now freeze* the sauce, or keep it in the fridge, but no longer than ten days. With any sign of spoilage such as mold, discoloration or bubbly foam, discard the sauce immediately.

Makes approximately 2 cups (500 ml) of sauce, depending on reduction.

* I split the sauce between several small freezer jam jars and keep the sauce in the freezer. I only pull a small jar at a time and let it thaw in the fridge before using it for dessert. This will help keep your product fresh.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Eiersalade


Easter always leaves me with a number of boiled eggs in the fridge. They're either left over from the egg hunt, from Easter breakfast and brunch, or from me just boiling a bunch of eggs because...well, because it's Easter. And with Easter, we have eggs. Lots of 'm.

It's not entirely accidental that I end up with an overload of boiled eggs.....because I love, love, love egg salad! I eat it on roggebrood for breakfast, for lunch with slices of tomato, cucumber and with pickles, or if there is any salad left, as a midnight snack with a couple of crackers. It started out as a way to use up the leftover eggs (yay Dutch thrift!), and now it's become a tradition, a little treat, that I look forward to every year.

Of course, as a Dutch person, I am not unfamiliar with eggs. We eat boiled eggs with our breakfast, use eggs for our slagroom cakes, make eierkoeken from Brabant, and use the whites for Haagse bluf dessert. One of our traditional drinks, advocaat, is also made from eggs. Eggs also replace meat during Lent meals, and even is the main ingredient in dishes like Kamper Steur and uitsmijters. According to this article, the Dutch consume almost 200 eggs a year - and after seeing how many dishes involve egg, I am not surprised!

And we do love our prepared salads! Ham salad, celery, shrimp, chicken curry, egg salad....there's a large variety of ready made salads that you can buy from the grocery stores, supermarkets or even at the butcher's or the fish stall. It's considered gezellig if, in the evening, when everybody is gathered around the television, or playing a board game, to bring out a board with several salads, a piece of paté or liverwurst and several crackers to enjoy these treats!

If you are starting this recipe from scratch, add the eggs to a pan of cold water. Bring to a rolling boil, put a lid on the pan and shut off the heat. Leave the eggs in the water for a good 10-12 minutes, then pour off the hot water and shock the eggs with cold water. Place them in the fridge if you are planning on using them later: eggs can be boiled up to two days in advance and be kept in the fridge for up to a week. Boiled eggs can be kept out of the fridge for a maximum of two hours, according to the CDC.

Eiersalade
8 eggs
4 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
1 spring onion
1 teaspoon mustard
Salt
Pepper

Peel the boiled eggs and cut them down the middle, lengthwise. Pop the yolks into a separate bowl. Chop the egg whites into small cubes. Break up the yolks finely with a fork, then stir in the mayonnaise and one tablespoon of heavy cream or milk. Mince the white part of the onion, and a little bit of the green, and stir that into the egg yolk mixture together with the mustard. Give it all a good stir. Now taste, and decide how much salt and pepper you'd like to add, if any.

Carefully fold the creamy yolk mix with the chopped egg whites. Taste again, to see if you need to adjust the salt and pepper. If not, you're set! Finish with sprinkling a little bit of chopped green from your spring onion tops.

This is the basic recipe for egg salad. You can substitute the cream for yogurt, only add half the mayo and half sour cream, add chopped pickles, shredded apple, or dust it with paprika or curry, fold in tiny cubes of ham, add more mustard, put a splash of sriracha in it.....it's up to you!

Makes enough for four generous sandwiches.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Zalmtaart

Today, March 14th, is Pi Day. I usually pay little attention to all these "Today-is-Fill-In-The-Blank-With-A-Food-Name-" days. Should not every day be pie day?!  So, initially I had not planned to write about this mathematical merriment, until I realized there was a Dutch connection. If the pie part did not catch my attention, the Dutch link surely did. Read on!
  
So, the first calculation of  π was carried out by the Greek mathematician Archimedes somewhere around 250 BC, who determined it to be 3 and a little bit after the comma, more accurately speaking "less than 3 1/7 but greater than 3 10/71". Over the next several centuries, other digit crunchers added more numbers to his initial calculation. 

The big breakthrough happened in 1600, when Ludolph van Ceulen calculated the first 35 digits of  π. This mathematician and fencing instructor, a German-born Dutchman, spent most of his life calculating the numerical value of the number pi, and even having it named after him (Ludolphian number), and writing papers and books about it. His amazing 35-digit approximation to pi is even engraved on his tombstone in Leiden. 

How interesting is that! Not having enough to do with calculating numbers, raising kids and teaching fencing, Van Ceulen also spent time posing problems and solutions to other mathematicians. One of these challenged peers was called Goudaen (meaning from the city of Gouda), of which you can read more here.  

So while I was trying to figure out who this Goudaen is, I was distracted by something else. It appears that the city of Gouda happens to house the oldest herberg, or inn, known in the provinces of South Holland. The hotel is called De Zalm (The Salmon). It was established in 1522 and back then was called De Ouden Salm. It had a gilded salmon on the top of its roof that blew off during a storm but that has been restored to its former glory since.

Never mind the salmon....imagine my surprise when I learned that Kralingseveer, by Rotterdam, housed the busiest and largest salmon auction during the 1800s and 19th century. Apparently, our rivers were riddled with salmon during that time! Who knew?! After the industrialization, the rivers in the Netherlands became too polluted and the salmon pretty much disappeared, which was around 1890. The fish auction at the Kralingseveer was finally demolished in 1932 because there was no more salmon to auction off. Sad, sad, sad state of affairs.

So in honor of Pi day and as a tip of the hat to Ludolph van Ceulen I am celebrating with a warm, fishy salmon pie for lunch. It's different from Aaltje's recipe from 1857 which used pistachios and fresh salmon. Our salmon pie used to be an easy-to-make, safe standby for many long study nights during my college years, and was typical fare for many of us surviving on a budget during those years. Nowadays, it has practically disappeared from the student's culinary scene, much like the salmon from the rivers. Which is a shame really, it's worth a shot! Some people add pineapple and corn, but I prefer this rather simple approach. 

Zalmtaart is also good eaten cold for lunch, with a glass of cold milk.  

Zalmtaart
1 can of pink or red salmon (14.75 ounces)
1 package Boursin cheese with garlic and fresh herbs (5.2 oz)
1 small shallot
1 tablespoon bread crumbs
3 tablespoons red and green pepper dice (or small can of Southwestern corn)
3 eggs
1 sheet puff pastry
Fresh parsley

Drain the salmon and break the meat into big pieces, picking out the skin and bones. Beat eggs with half of the cheese. Chop the shallot and fold into the eggs. Roll the thawed puff pastry out in 9 inch pie form, poke holes in pastry with a fork, and cover with 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs or panko. Distribute the salmon chunks over the bottom, and pour eggs on top. Break the rest of the cheese over the egg. Lastly sprinkle the bell peppers on top, or the drained corn if you're using it.

Heat the oven to 400F and bake the salmon pie in 20 minutes until done (the egg will be solid). You may finish it under the broiler to add some color to the top. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley just before serving. 

Makes 8 slices.