The end of the year is creeping up on us, and many of us are busy in the kitchen these days. The month of December is probably the month where we prepare most of the food ourselves: whether that's speculaas for Sinterklaas, Kerststol for Christmas or oliebollen for New Year's Eve.

New Year's Eve is an evening traditionally spent with friends and family. During the day, we're busy in the kitchen preparing snacks, soups and salads as this is usually not a day for a big meal. While listening to the Top 2000 on the radio, we cook, bake, chat, visit, Skype and WhatsApp our way to the end of the year!

One of the typical dishes during this evening are "koude schotels", cold platters: decorated platters of luxury potato salad with chunks of beef, or like today, with salmon or lobster. For one, they're easy to make and hold well in the fridge, and secondly, they feed a large group of people throughout the day. Just remember to pop it back in the fridge after serving to keep it fresh.

Today, we've made a zalmsalade, a salmon based cold salad. It's best the day before so the flavors can blend together, and then dressed and served the day of.

1 can Red or Pink Salmon (approx. 15 ounces/425 grams net weight)
2 large red potatoes
1 small can peas and carrots (or mixed vegetables)
1 tablespoon capers
6 dill pickles, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
4 heaping soup spoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
Pinch of dried or fresh dill

Drain the salmon into a sieve, and save the liquid. Remove bones and skin. Wash and cut potatoes into cubes, boil in salted water until done. Drain the peas and carrots.

Add the potatoes, the peas and carrots, the capers, the dill pickles and the celery into a bowl and stir together. Throw in a pinch of dried or fresh dill, some salt and pepper. Mix the mayonnaise with two tablespoons of the liquid from the canned salmon into a sauce and fold that into the vegetable mixture in the bowl. Taste and see if you want to adjust the seasonings. Lastly, carefully fold in the canned salmon. You want to try and keep it a bit chunky.

In a separate bowl, mix four tablespoons of mayonnaise with one tablespoon of the salmon liquid and a squirt of ketchup into a pink sauce. This will cover the salad tomorrow, and keep it moist.

Cover both and place in the fridge until ready to serve.

When you get ready to make up your platter, remove the salmon salad from the fridge. Layer a plate with lettuce leaves, and shape the salad on top, dome-like. Slather the salad with the pink sauce you made the day before, and decorate with slices of cucumber, boiled egg, fresh dill, tiny tomatoes and colorful strips of bell pepper. Serve with crackers, toast or dinner rolls.

Itching to get back in the garden?

Are your fingers itching to get started in your garden? If you're an avid gardener like I am, you are probably already looking through your seed catalogs to see what you will grow next and can't wait to get outside.

Or maybe you've never grown a thing in your life, but are willing to give it a go. Did you know that a lot of the vegetables we use in our Dutch cuisine can be easily grown?

If you do, you are in good company. Besides growing fruits and vegetables on balconies, in back gardens and side yards, the Dutch also have almost a quarter million volkstuinen where they spend much of their time. These "gardens for the people" are usually small plots of land that are leased (often indefinitely) from either the city administration or from gardening associations who own or manage these plots of lands. The land is usually on the outskirts of the city or town. Some plots are small and can be found along railways and roads, others are larger and can even contain small huts or greenhouses. The largest volkstuin complexes even have small petting zoos, nature reserves and during the growing season, even small farmers markets.

Many families spend whole summers on their volkstuin place, if the local agreement allows. It's close to home and gezellig, as a volkstuin always has several plots with other gardeners and their families. People share crops, seeds and chats alongside short fences. I'm sure you can imagine that, if you live "third floor up, in the back" and hardly see the light of day, spending a summer outside, with trees, a splash pool, and your family around you is sheer delight!

Growing foods and flowers also creates an opportunity to make memories. It's fun to share this with kids or grandkids, and gives you an opportunity to share your heritage and family stories. If anything, you'll eat healthier foods that you have grown yourself, or grow those that are hard to come by in the store! And if you don't know how to grow anything, you can always ask your local master gardeners in your local university extension office, or that neighbor with the beautiful flowers and vegetables down the road- as gardeners, we're always happy to share information.

I've added a page, Dutch Gardening, to the website, with a short description of traditional Dutch vegetables, and links to places where you can order seeds. Take a look and see if your favorite vegetable is listed. If not, give us a holler in the comments and we'll add them!

Happy gardening!

What's new?

Hello all!

It's a new year and we're working hard on sharing the love for Dutch food and food traditions: we're updating the site, re-testing old recipes and working on new ones, taking new pictures and reading up on old traditions!

We've also expanded our reach and have started a YouTube channel. I've come across a whole pile of these old cinema reels that show what life in the Netherlands looked like during the last century. Some of you may remember these times, others have only heard about it from their parents or grandparents. I'm trying to focus mostly on food related news flashes, but others are just too interesting or curious to leave behind. Take a look at the Twentse Boerenbruiloft - Farmer's Wedding in Twente, for example, or the short Emigratie naar Canada - Emigration to Canada from 1948.

Please consider subscribing to the YouTube channel so you can see the updates as I post them.
Here is a cute video that will take you to the channel, or click on the link above to see all the videos. The news is from 1948 and, as I said on our Facebook page, sometimes we forget how good we have it.

Lastly, I get a lot of questions on what products I use for recreating the recipes, or what types of pans or tools I use. To help out, as I am reworking the recipes, I am adding a selection of Amazon product links on the bottom of the page. I am handpicking these personally, and for every recipe. As an Amazon Associate, I do get a small amount for every purchase that is made through the link. This is the first advertising I am adding to the page, as I have declined to do so earlier, but I thought it might help. Take a look - both the erwtensoep (split pea soup) and the bitterballen recipes have these links already.

Soon, we'll have some additional news on how we're expanding our reach and share our love for Dutch food and food traditions: we're already on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest - can you take a guess?

Thank you for your support of this site and for your appreciation of our cuisine - keep cooking, keep sharing and stay healthy and happy!