Paasstol

"
Een ei is geen ei, twee ei is een half ei, drie ei is een Paasei!" goes a famous Dutch children's verse. We're getting ready to celebrate Pasen, Easter, with plenty of eggsaladPaasbroodPaashaasjes or even a beautiful Paastaart, an Easter cake, complete with advocaat

Not to be outdone by anyone, we celebrate Easter for two days. The first day is Easter Sunday, or First Easter Day, Eerste Paasdag. The gathering of family and friends around the breakfast, lunch, or dinner table is key on First Easter Day. Stores are closed, and children are dressed in their "Paasbest" (Easter Best) with new clothes and shoes. All the eggs are dyed in bright colors, hidden and if lucky, all found. The breakfast or brunch table will be laden with different types of bread (multigraintiger rolls, currant rolls), as well as omelets, smoked salmon, cold cuts, and cheese, and plenty of hot coffee and tea. This is not a time to rush, but to enjoy each other's company, and several times the breakfast turns into brunch which then turns into lunch. As long as it's gezellig

And as the world gets back to work and resumes normal life on the Monday after Easter, the Netherlands celebrates Second Easter Day, or Tweede Paasdag. Where most stores and businesses remain closed, Second Easter Day is seemingly THE day to go furniture shopping. The large furniture stores, meubelboulevards, are open to the shopping public. Some of these are all set up for a fun day: playgrounds for the kids and a tearoom or lunchroom for mom, to make it gezellig

And if you're skipping brunch or have friends and family over for coffee or tea later, you can also serve something sweet: a Paastaart, or Easter cake, a variation on our traditional slagroomtaart, whipped cream cake. Decorated with fluffy whipped cream, a light biscuit batter and an adult amount of advocaat, this Easter cake will put a smile on your face. 

Today's Paasstol will look very familiar to those who like to celebrate Christmas with a kerststol, a dried fruit studded bread with a thick ribbon of almond paste, and covered in powdered sugar. Both share the same recipe and sometimes even fillings: the only difference is that at Christmas we top the bread with powdered sugar, at Easter we sprinkle it with shaved almonds. But hey! if you prefer powdered sugar to apricot jam and nuts, go for it. If you don't like raisins, don't put them in - just substitute the amount with a different dried fruit. It's all good! 

Paasstol is best eaten with a generous lick of butter. Whip the almond paste out of the slice, and spread it on top of the butter. The bread is also really good toasted!

Paasstol

1/2 cup (75 grams) golden raisins 
1/2 cup (40 grams) mixed and chopped dried fruits, like cranberries, currants, cherries, dried apricots...
1/4 cup (60 ml) orange juice, warm  - some prefer rum or a flavored liqueur
2 1/2 cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour 
3/4 cup (175 ml) milk, warm 
2 teaspoons (7 grams) active dry yeast 
1/4 cup (55 grams) sugar 
1/2 teaspoon (4 grams) salt 
1 egg, beaten 
1/2 stick (50 grams) butter, melted 
1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest

For the filling:
1 small can of almond paste* (or make your own by blending 8 oz/225 grams of sliced almonds with the same amount of powdered sugar, a small egg, a teaspoon of lemon zest, and a teaspoon of almond flavoring)

For the finish:
2 tablespoons butter, melted (25 grams)
1 tablespoon apricot jam, mixed with 1 teaspoon hot water
1/2 cup (50 grams) slivered almonds 

Soak the raisins and the dried fruits in the warm orange juice for a good fifteen minutes, then drain. Spread them out in a colander or baking sheet so that they can air-dry while you continue with the recipe. 

In a large bowl, place the flour. Make a well in the center and pour the warm milk in, and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let it sit for five minutes. Stir the flour and the milk until it barely comes together. Add the sugar and the salt, stir again, and slowly add the egg, then the melted butter and the citrus zest. Continue to knead for ten minutes on medium speed, until the dough comes together. 

Let the dough rest at room temperature, covered, for thirty minutes. Give those dried fruits a quick squeeze to drain some superfluous liquid. Punch the air out of the dough, and pat it flat on the counter, spread the dried fruits over the top, and carefully knead the dough back together into a ball, either by hand or in your bread mixer, but be careful that you don't tear up the fruit! You'll probably have more dried fruit than you think will ever fit, but keep kneading and pushing them back in the dough (they tend to escape).  Knead the dough carefully until the fruits are well distributed. Grease a bowl, place the dough inside, cover, and rest for an hour at room temperature or until the dough has doubled in size. Don't skip this step as the stol will be very thick and heavy if you do. 

Gently deflate the dough and pat into an oval. Place the oval with the short end
toward you and make an indentation along the length of the dough, in the middle. Now roll the almond paste on the counter until it forms a roll almost as long as the dough. Lay the almond roll in the indentation and lift the left side of the dough over the paste. Make sure that the dough does not meet the bottom half all the way on the right: a significant shape of the stol is the bottom "pouting" lip of the bread. Gently press the edge of the top half into the dough at the bottom.

Rest the dough on a lightly greased baking sheet or a silicone mat. Cover it, and let it proof for about 30 minutes or until ready to bake: the dough should barely spring back if you poke it with your finger. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350F/175C. Bake the bread for 35 - 40 minutes on the middle rack. If the bread is browning too fast, cover it with a piece of aluminum foil. Use a digital thermometer to determine if the bread is done: the temperature should be 190F/88C and rising.

As soon as the bread comes out of the oven, brush it with the melted butter. Cool for about 15 minutes, then brush the bread with the apricot jam. Sprinkle the almond shavings on top. Wait until the bread is fully cooled down before slicing. Best served with a generous lick of butter!

Tip: If you have any paasstol left over the next day, toast a slice until nice and golden. Whip the almond paste out with the tip of your knife and spread it on the warm slice of bread. Yummm!!!!!!!!!

Vrolijk Pasen everyone!







Vijfschaft


 As you can imagine, I do a lot of reading. Cookbooks, history books, and anything else that can help me dig deeper into our Dutch food culture and our traditions. And very often I can find background information that helps me place a dish in a certain province or timeline. But the information for today's dish, Vijfschaft, eludes me. For one, there are as many variations as there are recipes. The only constant is the main ingredients: potatoes, carrots, onion, apple, beans. Secondly, it is said to be a typical dish from Utrecht...but I can't find the source. I've gone back as far as 1769 but there is no mention. Every recipe intro says the same thing: the name is unknown, it is eaten during the time of year when there was not much left of the foods stored over the winter, it was eaten during the time that there was not much farming to be done (i.e. winter), and the name "vijf" (five) either refers to the five main ingredients or dinner time, and the word "schaft" (worker's meal break) indicates the worker nature of the dish.

I can see why this dish would be suitable for workers: it is loaded with carbs which provide plenty of energy. The ingredients are also easily found and prepared: apples, onions, potatoes, and carrots are ingredients for many a stamppot, and brown beans are the main ingredient for a delicious soup. 

Because I can't really vouch for the recipe's origin, background, regional impact, or significance, there is a good side: we can make the recipe our own, and nobody can tell us we're doing it wrong :-)  The premise of the dish is that the five cooked ingredients are added to a deep bowl or dish, seasoned with salt and pepper. The two main variations seem to be that you can: 

- boil all the ingredients in bouillon or water.

- fry the onions and the apples in butter, boil the potatoes, beans, and carrots. 

From here on out, it's a free for all. You can mash the boiled ingredients roughly, with a bit of butter and some of the cooking liquid, warm milk, or appelmoes and eat it like a coarse stamppot. You can leave the vegetables whole and serve it with the cooking liquid (more like a stew), or thicken the cooking liquid and season it with mustard and pour it over before mixing it in. Or you can serve it with a dollop of butter or mayonnaise. You can also add rookworst, smoked sausage, and/or bacon. See what I mean? Many variations of the same dish - so it's all up to what you prefer! As for me, I like it two ways: either hot, with smoked sausage, with a mustard sauce, or cold the next day, chopped up and mixed with mayo, more like a potato salad. Below is the recipe for the hot dish. Serves 4. 

Utrechtse Vijfschaft

4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 vegetable bouillon cube

1 large carrot, peeled and sliced

1 small can brown or red kidney beans (approx.8 oz/ 250 grams), drained and rinsed

1 smoked rope sausage

1 large onion

1 large apple

2 tablespoons (30 grams) butter

2 tablespoons mustard

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Salt, black pepper

Bring the potatoes to a boil in enough water to cover, with the bouillon cube for about 10 minutes. Turn to simmer, and add the carrots, the rinsed beans, and the smoked sausage and slow boil for 10 minutes more. Check to see if the potatoes are done, then drain, but reserve a cup (250 ml) of the cooking water. 

In the meantime, peel and slice the onion in rings, core the apple, and slice into 8 slices. Melt the butter in a skillet and brown the onions, for about ten minutes on low-medium heat. Add the apple slices and fry them brown on each side, for about five minutes. Turn off the heat and set it aside. 

Mix the cornstarch with a tablespoon of cold water. Bring the cooking water to a boil, mix in the cornstarch slurry and stir until it thickens, about a minute. Turn down the heat and stir in the mustard. Taste to see if you'd like a stronger mustard taste, if so add another tablespoon. 

Mix the potatoes, carrots, beans, fried onions, and apple in a large bowl. Taste and see if you need to adjust the salt. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper over the dish. Serve the warm mustard sauce on the side, together with the sliced sausage. 






 

Haarlemmer Halletjes

This week's cookie falls knee-deep into the category of "koffiekoekjes": thin, crisp, spiced cookies that don't look all that special, but that make a cup of coffee or tea a memorable occasion: they dunk well, taste delicious, and make you reach for just one more. Sometimes they don't even get a name, they're just called "koffiekoekjes" or "theekoekjes", but today's cookie does have a name: Haarlemmer Halletjes. 

An advertisement in the Oprechte Haerlemse Courant from January 3rd, 1711, states that "Eymert van der Schee, who lives in Haarlem in the Korte Veerstraet in the house called "Het Halletje"*, where the Halletjes Biscuits were first baked, and from where they have received their name, announces that these Halletjes Biscuits are nowhere else as good as those obtained from him. They are soo delicate and durable lasting, good for 5, 6 and more years, without the slightest change; whereby they, after all, could be sent to all distant lands.  Those who want to purchase these Halletjes Biscuits can do so at the aforementioned house.”

It is fair to say that Eymert was no fool: by placing an advertisement claiming that his cookies were the real deal, all the other bakers in town were immediately labeled as copy-cats. However, it should be said that Van Der Schee was probably not the original inventor of the recipe, as one Claas Jacobs baked from that same house 150 years earlier cookies under the same name. 

Nevertheless, the Haarlemmer Halletjes became famous, were indeed shipped all over the world, and are still, to this day, a must-have treat when visiting the beautiful city of Haarlem. 

Fortunately, you can also bake these at home! The following recipe is good for about 30 to 40 cookies. They will not last as long as "5, 6 and more years, without the slightest change" per Van Der Schee's statement, mainly because everybody will be able to smell them a mile away and will be wanting to know what you're up to. Just do as I do: hand out 30, and keep 10 behind. Baker's treat ;-) 

Haarlemmer Halletjes

1 1/2 cup (185 grams) all-purpose flour

4 1/2 tablespoons (65 grams) butter, cold

3/4 cup (115 grams) brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup (60 ml) water

In a bowl, add the flour. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and mix in the flour with the brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves, and the baking powder. By hand, rub the mix together until it resembles wet sand, then add the water and knead into a pliable dough, for about three minutes. The dough should come loose from the bowl and your hands. Pat the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and rest in the fridge for 1 hour. 

Remove from the fridge. Let the dough sit out for about ten minutes, then break off a piece and roll it between two sheets of plastic (I usually cut up a large 2 gallon ziploc bag for this), or dust the counter lightly with a bit of flour and roll the dough out, to about 1/8 of an inch (3 mm). Use a cookie cutter about 2 to 3 inches in diameter (6 - 8cm) (or square, it doesn't really matter, pick a shape you like!), and cut out the cookies. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat, and place the cookies on the sheet. Heat the oven to 375F/190C and bake the cookies, about 12- 14 minutes, on the middle level in the oven. 

Cool on a rack, and they will crisp up as they cool. Do plenty of tasting unless you are home alone because they will be gone before you know it! 



Sources: Bakkers in Bedrijf, Delpher

*In Haarlem, houses were often named, like The Orange Flowerpot, the Scissors, The Three Sugar Loaves, or Het Halletje, as we saw here, so the people who lived there could say " I am Jan Janszoon from The Orange Flowerpot". I bet that, in a city with hundreds of Jan Janszoons, it would be a welcome way to determine who was who! The houses often showed their name through colorful placards hanging from the facade. It must have been quite a sight! 

Riefkook (Reibekuche)

When I was young, like many other Dutch families we used to stay on a camping in northern Limburg during the summers. It was a kid's dream, and we still talk about those times when I meet up with other campers of those days. We had a big swimming pool, a large play area with lots of equipment to climb on, in, or fall out of, miniature golf, and plenty of trees to get lost among. But the best thing about going to the swimming pool was not the swimming or the pool itself, it was the small fry shack right outside the fence. 

To this day, when I catch a whiff of french fries, it reminds me of that small frietkraam. Actually, what I remember is just a sliding window, with a hand sticking out, handing a cone of french fries to whoever was next in line. I couldn't tell you who worked there, what it looked like on the inside, or even what the color on the outside was. But I have one very distinct memory, one that hasn't left me since then. One day, I am on my way back from swimming. I am about 8 years old. I have enough change with me to get a cone of fries, and I am looking forward to getting my jaws around those hot, golden fries. Super excited I stand in line, waiting my turn to order and when I reach the window, I said "eine patat mét, astebleef" (one portion of fries with mayo, please), and hand over the contents of my sweaty little fist. 

"Det is neet genóg", says a voice. I freeze. What? Not enough? I must have lost some of the coins on the way! He must have had pity on me because he says "wach effe" and hands me a paper cone with something hot inside. I step aside and look. In the paper cone is a golden yellow disk, flat but big and round. A riefkook! And my disappointment turns into delight: one bite of that crispy, salty, shredded potato patty was like biting into a fistful of french fries at once: delicious!!! 

So strong are food memories that, forty-some years later, I still remember biting into that riefkook. It's an insignificant memory but still, it's there. Now, I suspect that if you did not grow up in Limburg, or on the border with Germany, you may not be familiar with riefkook. It's called reibekuchen in German, and they are fried potato patties, made from shredded potato, egg, flour, and onion. In Limburg, you can find these all over the frietkramen, the french fries places. They're not often served with anything, like mayo or mustard, but I can tell you that they're delicious with a dab of applesauce! Riefkook are usually eaten as a snack, but there is no reason why they could not replace your hashbrowns at breakfast time, or be a potato variation for dinner. Go for it!

Riefkook

1.5 lbs (750 grams) potatoes

1 medium-sized onion

2 eggs

1/4 cup (30 grams) flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Oil for frying

Peel the potatoes and shred them on the side of the box grater with the large holes. Put the grated potato in a colander, and give them a quick rinse. Squeeze out the water and set aside to drain. Mince the onion. Get a large frying pan and add enough oil to cover the bottom. 

Squeeze the potatoes again and get rid of the liquid. Mix the potatoes with the shredded onion, the eggs, the flour and the salt and pepper. Mix well. Prepare a platter with a few paper towels on the side, and get two spatulas, and an ice cream scoop or two spoons. 

When the oil is hot, take a scoop of the potato mix and put it in the pan. Flatten it with a spatula and tuck in the edges so that it forms a round circle. Repeat until the pan is full, but with enough space around each riefkook, like the picture above. Fry for about three to four minutes on medium-high, then use two spatulas to flip it over. The bottom should be golden brown. Fry the other side for two more minutes, or until golden, Rest on the paper towels to absorb some of the oil. Keep warm until served. 

Makes 12 - 14 medium sized riefkook.

Laot ut och smaeke!





Gebakken Mosselen

 Last weekend, I was really craving fish: a fresh herring, a little bit of smoked mackerel, a lekkerbekje, or even a small tray of kibbeling (with remoulade sauce of course), would have satisfied my palate. Even a portion of smoked eel would have done the trick! It made me realize how fortunate we are in the Netherlands, where there are still specialized fishmongers in almost every town, right next to the cheese shop, the local bakery, and the butchers. Of course, I am well aware that slowly but surely these specialized shops are disappearing, as so many buyers prefer to shop and get everything from the local supermarket. The danger in that is, and that is not only in the Netherlands but everywhere else, that these specialists with their unique recipes, products, and knowledge, retire or close up shop - and that the knowledge is lost forever. 

But back to the fishmongers' store: here you can find a large variety of fresh fish and seafood, as well as prepared foods. Large platters with a variety of fish, seafood, marinades, and dipping sauces are available for the barbecue (grill) for those summer weekends, or for those gourmet evenings with friends and family. Soft white rolls are stuffed with herring, eel, mackerel, fish paté, or smoked salmon for a bite on the go. They sell shrimp, salmon, herring, or mackerel salads by the portion or by the kilo, for lunch, or for a party. I could go on and on about the amazing foods you can find at the visboer....and most of this is made in-house, and according to traditional recipes. 

After cooking up mussels the other day, I was left with about two pounds after dinner: a typical case of eyes bigger than my stomach....but not really, for I had a cunning plan; fried mussels!! These babies are scooped out of their shell, battered, deep-fried, and served with a dipping sauce. Delicious as a snack, with a cold glass of something or other, or served with a fresh spinach stamppot, for example, for dinner: these mussels are very versatile! 

If you prepare them from scratch, use this recipe for 2 lbs (1 kg) mussels, but substitute the cup of wine for beer, and cool them after steaming. Two pounds of mussels will give you approximately 8 ounces (225 grams) of meat. If you don't care for beer or wine, you can fish stock or plain water. Use seltzer water for the batter, if you can. You can also often buy already shelled mussel meat in the freezer section. 

I used the same mustard dipping sauce that I had for the steamed mussels, but you can also make a remoulade sauce or one of your own liking.

Fried mussels

8 oz (225 grams) mussel meat

1/4 cup flour (75 grams)

1/2 cup (100 ml) beer

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon paprika powder

1/8 teaspoon chopped garlic

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

4 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped finely (or 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley leaves)

1 lemon

Pat the mussels dry and look for any shell pieces or "beards", small tendrils that are attached to the mussel. Remove. Mix the flour with 3/4 of the beer, the egg, the baking powder, and the rest of the ingredients. Let it sit for five minutes, while you prepare the dipping sauce(s). The batter needs to be thick, like the consistency of thick American pancake batter. If it's thickened too much, add a bit more of the beer and stir. 

Heat the fryer to 350F. Set a large platter or a bowl to the side with a few paper towels to soak up the grease. With two spoons, dip each mussel in the batter, and shake off as much batter as you can. Drop them carefully in the hot oil. Fry the morsels golden brown, for about four minutes, and fish them out of the oil, and onto the paper towels. 

Slice the lemon in quarters and squeeze over the mussels. Time to dig in!

Serves four. 





Fries Suikerbrood (Fryske Sukerbole)

Frisian sugar loaf slices
Sûkerbôle 
or suikerbrood, sugar bread,  is a traditional bread from the northern province of Friesland, in Holland. Other provinces such as Limburg and Brabant have a similar recipe for sugary bread loaves but what sets the Frisian bread apart is the high amount of sugar. In comparison to other regional recipes, Frisians use twice as much sugar. It's therefore a sticky, sugary loaf, but oh so delicious! 

The sûkerbôle was often given to a new mother to celebrate the arrival of a baby girl; for baby boys, it was a raisin cake.

The sugar used for this recipe is called pearl sugar and is hard to find in a regular store, so I order mine from Amazon (here's the link)* Crushed-up sugar cubes are a good substitute: put them in a clean towel, fold it over, and give it a few whacks with t with a rolling pin. Not too hard! You want to have sugar lumps, not finely ground sugar. Handfold these lumps in the dough after the first rise.

Fryske Sûkerbôle
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (200 ml) milk
3 1/2 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons ginger syrup (optional)**
1 egg
5 tablespoons (80 grams) butter, melted
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (150 grams) pearl sugar, or crushed sugar cubes

For the pan: 
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon regular sugar

Add the yeast to the warm milk. In a mixing bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Pour in the milk and yeast and mix together. Knead in the ginger syrup if using, the egg, and the melted butter until the dough forms a soft and flexible dough. This will take a little while, as the dough at first seems scraggly, about a good ten minutes. Cover and rise until double its size.

On a lightly floured counter, roll out the dough in a rectangle (about the length of the pan) and sprinkle the cinnamon over it, and then the pearl sugar. Now roll the dough into a loaf shape (first fold the sides towards each other, covering the sugar and cinnamon, then roll up into a loaf). Some of the pearl sugar may fall out - just roll the dough over it so it gets embedded on the outside. 
Sugar and cinnamon filling

Butter the inside of a 9 x 5 inch (23 x 13 cm) loaf pan with the melted butter, but save a little bit for the loaf itself, about half a tablespoon. Put a tablespoon of sugar in the pan and tilt it forward towards each side so that the sugar coats the whole inside. Place the loaf inside, seam down. Cover and rise for about 15 minutes, or until loaf peaks out from inside the pan.

In the meantime, heat your oven to 375F (190C) degrees. Bake for 30 minutes or until loaf is done (measure with a digital thermometer: look for 190F or 87C). If the top browns too quickly, tent the loaf with aluminum foil.

As soon as the bread comes out of the oven, brush the top with the leftover melted butter. Cool the loaf for about five minutes, then carefully loosen the bread from the pan as some of the sugar may have caused the bread to stick. Remove the loaf and continue to cool on a rack. If you want a supersticky loaf, put the bread in a plastic bag when it's still lukewarm. 

Awesome with a curl of real butter!


Buttered sugar loaf on a plate



* this is my Amazon associate's link. If you purchase something through this link, I will get a few pennies (literally) at no cost to you. All the proceeds are used to maintain this website.

** If you don't have ginger syrup, don't worry. I soak a tablespoon (10 grams) of chopped candied ginger and one tablespoon of sugar in two tablespoons of hot water. Let sit for about a good hour, then remove the ginger and use the syrup. Or....if you like ginger as much as I do, add the chopped pieces to the dough. What's the worse that can happen? Exactly. 

Friese Uiensoep (Fryske Sipelsop)

The Frisian language is such a unique language, and so different to Dutch. Just look at the name of this dish. Ui, meaning "onion" in Dutch, and "sipel" meaning the same thing in Frisian. Where do these differences come from? Well, I am glad you asked! According to the etymology of the words, "ui" has its origins in the French language, "oignon", where also the more old-fashioned word "ajuin" comes from, another Dutch word for onions. In Friesland, however, they veered more towards the Germanic side of things, hence "sipel" which stems from "zwiebel", the German word for onion. 

Fortunately, the soup doesn't care where the words come from, as it's as tasty made with "uien" as it is with "sipels". This is a thicker soup with a slight tangy flavor, and warming qualities: perfect for this cold weather we're experiencing here! The traditional cheese used for the toasted bread slices is Frisian cheese, a delicious gouda-style cheese flavored with cloves and cumin seeds. If you have access to it, great! If you don't, I've adapted the recipe so that you have the same flavors. 

Use a heavy bottomed skillet to caramelize the onions. Caramelizing the onions is a task of patience - browning the onions is slow, but it's so worth the effort as it gives a great color and fantastic flavor to the soup. I use this time to listen to Dutch podcasts or NPO Radio 1: it's a great distraction!

Friese Uiensoep

2 lbs (1 kg) onions, peeled and sliced in half moons

2 tablespoons (30 grams) butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup (50 grams) flour

4 cups (1 liter) vegetable or beef stock

2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (optional)

4 cloves

Salt

Black pepper

Toasted bread rounds or croutons

2 oz (50 grams) Gouda (-type) cheese, grated

Pinch of cumin seeds

Melt the butter and the olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet until hot, and stir in the onions. Keep stirring frequently, until all the onions are golden brown. This will take at least a good 20 to 30 minutes on medium low heat. When they're golden, sprinkle the flour over the onions and give it a good stir so that the onions are coated, and continue to brown for a minute or two. Stir in the stock a little bit at a time, making sure that it's incorporated well, until it's a thick soup. Add the cloves and simmer for about twenty minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the cloves and stir in the two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (optional). 

Top the bread rounds with grated cheese and melt the cheese under the broiler (I give it a quick 30 seconds in the microwave if I don't want to heat up the oven). Add a pinch of cumin seeds on top and serve with the soup. 

Serves 4. For a more substantial meal, dice a hardboiled egg and stir in the soup, right before serving.




Groningse Eierbal

Eierbal (egg ball), or aaierbal in the Groningen dialect, is a treat like no other. It's similar in looks to the Scotch egg, but whereas a Scotch egg has a wrapping of ground meat or sausage, the eierbal has a thick gravy coat, seasoned with curry spices and fresh parsley. Both contain a whole boiled egg, and both are breadcrumbed and deep-fried until they're golden and crispy, but where the Scotch egg gives a solid bite, the eierbal is creamier, much like a bitterbal or a kroket. The egg in the Gronings specialty is also soft boiled so that the yolk is still a little liquid. Heaven!

Contrary to other snacks, like the frikandel, the eierbal can not be found everywhere and seems to be specific to Groningen and surrounding areas. There is one place, in Venlo, Limburg, that claims to have been the originator of the treat, but the proprietor lived in Groningen for a while so possibly got her inspiration there. 

So how did this deep-fried egg ball happen to be in Groningen? I am glad you asked! During WW1, the Netherlands was neutral and provided a safe location for many English soldiers who were fleeing from the Germans in Belgium. They were interned in a camp in Groningen, named Timbertown. Up to 1,500 soldiers were housed here at one time. 

Photo source: Friends 
As the war progressed, the men became restless but as they were unable to leave the camp, they entertained themselves with theatre, music and....food! A couple of lads opened up a chip shop on the premises. They named it the Timbertown Chip Shop, and were open every night from 4 PM - 8 PM. 

It is very, very possible that these men also made Scotch eggs, seeing as how the Scotch egg was already known for several centuries in England. As they were also in contact with the locals, it is easy to see how the idea of wrapping boiled eggs would have stuck. 

Since then, the eierbal has nestled itself so deeply into the local tradition and culture, that the golden snack was added to the inventory of Immaterial Cultural Heritages in 2017. As it appears to have been around since the early 1900s until now, you can imagine that the recipe has developed: almost everybody has a favorite snackbar to get their eierbal fix, or makes the recipe slightly different, but they're all considered eierballen, and they're all considered a Groningen tradition. 

I decided to make these after working on videos from Groningen for our YouTube channel. Many of you have commented on how much you enjoy the nostalgic throwbacks to older times, and see how our parents and grandparents lived. I was also making dinner at the time and decided to serve mine as a meat alternative with spinach stamppot. Not traditional, but delicious nonetheless! 

I chose to make the most traditional version, those with a curry ragout, but if you're making kroketten or bitterballen one of these days, you may try it also with a meaty ragout to see if you like it or substitute the curry powder with Mediterranean herbs, or something else you favor. I can also see where falafel seasoning would go well. You can also brush the egg with flavorings (sweet chili sauce, or mustard), so this recipe is perfect for turning it into a family exclusive! 

Groningse Eierbal

4 eggs

3 1/2 tablespoons butter (50 grams)

1/2 cup flour (100 grams)

2 cups vegetable or chicken bouillon (450 ml)

2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 egg

1 cup breadcrumbs or panko (50 grams)

2 tablespoons flour

Oil for frying

Melt the butter in a skillet and stir in the flour, until it looks like wet sand. Slowly stir in the bouillon until you have a thick sauce, about four minutes. Add the curry powder and the parsley (or other flavors) and keep stirring for another two more minutes. Line a shallow pan with plastic film, pour the ragout sauce over it, and tap another piece of plastic on top, touching the sauce. This will keep it from drying out. Chill the ragout overnight, or for at least four hours, until solid. 

Boil 4 eggs for 5 minutes, then shock in cold water and peel. Divide the cold ragout into four pieces, and wrap each piece around an egg, shaping it into a round ball. This does not have to be precise, so do the best you can! Roll the wrapped eggs in a little bit of flour. Beat the 5th egg, and roll each egg in the egg wash, let the egg drip off a little bit, and then roll it in breadcrumbs or panko. Pat together and shape into a ball again. If you want, you can repeat the egg and breadcrumbing for a thicker coating. If you feel that these are too big, or want more of a small snack, boil the eggs one minute longer, and cut in half before wrapping.

Heat the fryer to 350F (170C) and carefully drop the eierballen in the fryer, one or two at a time. All at once may overflow the fryer, or drop the temperature too fast. Fry for five to six minutes, or until all sides are golden brown. Drain on a tray with kitchen towels to soak up some of the grease. Serve cut in half, cold or hot. 




Sources: Sikkom, Friends

Drentse Turfkoek

This week, I spent some time editing and posting videos on our YouTube channel about the province of Drenthe and its role in turf production during the last two centuries. Commercial turf logging started in the second half of the 19th century and lasted until the middle of the 20th century, but as early as the 16th century, the people in the Netherlands used dried peat (turf) to heat their homes. 

Logging the raised bogs caused the landscape to change drastically, as you can imagine, as several canals were dug to benefit the transportation of the fossil fuel. For a short while, people from all over the country moved to Drenthe to try their luck in the industry, but life as a peat laborer was tough. When newer sources of fuel emerged, such as the Limburg coal, the peat industry dwindled quickly. Fortunately, it prevented the province from losing all of its natural beauty, so if you find yourself in the Netherlands with some time on your hands, it is an interesting destination to visit. 

And when you do, you will see that Drenthe embraces its turf history with gusto. A typical product that you will find at local bakeries, and slices of it offered with your cup of coffee, is the Drenthse turfkoek, a turf cake, so called because of its appearance. Its shape, elongated and rounded at the edges, is said to mimic the shape of a peat log. This is a fairly new invention, which results in different bakers using a variety of approaches, all tasty and delicious. The main ingredients are koekkruiden (a mix of herbs and spices), brown sugar, milk, and dried fruits and nuts. I used brandied walnuts, raisins (boerenjongens), and apricots (boerenmeisjes) from my oliebollen baking on New Year's eve, but you can also use apple, chocolate chips, or anything else that you fancy. You're looking for a sturdy cake with lots of chunky fillings, much like a peat log, but better tasting :-)

If you don't have an oval tin to bake in, you can easily use an 8 x 4, or a 9 x 5 cake form. 

Drentse Turfkoek
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (250 grams)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (150 grams)
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
3 teaspoons koekkruiden*
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (75 grams)
3/4 cup dried fruits (currants, raisins, apricots...)** (100 grams)
1 egg
1 cup milk (250 ml)
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Mix the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, spices, walnuts, dried fruits). Beat the egg with the milk and pour the liquid into the bowl with the dry mix. 

Grease a baking form, pour in the batter, and bake at 325F for 40 minutes, or until the cake is done. Test for doneness with a toothpick or metal skewer: if it comes out dry, the cake is done. 

Cool on a rack for five to ten minutes, then take out of the form and wrap in clingfilm. As the cake does not have any fat, it will dry out faster, so keep it wrapped. 

Dust lightly with powdered sugar, and slice in thick slices, slather with butter (or not) and serve with a cup of coffee or tea. 



* For koekkruiden, mix 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon with 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon cardamom, 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper, and, if you have it, 1/8 teaspoon of dried orange peel. If you like the flavor of anise, add a 1/8th teaspoon of ground anise to give it a special twist. Smell and decide if you like it.  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. You can also use speculaaskruiden which have the addition of 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves. 

**soak your dried fruit in warm water for thirty minutes, then drain and pat dry before folding in the flour

Slemp

Happy New Year!! Today is January 1st, the first day of a new year. After a whole month of eating, visiting, partying, and coming up with all kinds of good intentions for the new year, today is a good day to go "uitwaaien", to let the wind blow the cobwebs from our brain, to air out the stuffiness from too much sitting inside and being cooped up with other people. (Our Calvinistic upbringing is probably reprimanding us that we've done too much indulging and that it's time to get back to normal) So get your coats on, bring hats and mittens, and let's go for a brisk walk: on the beach, in the forest, or in the city parks. 

It doesn't matter where you go, as long as you go. If you're out and about today in the Netherlands, you'll see that many with you are "uitwaaien"- it's traditional to seek out nature, and the country has many places where we can get out and about. Several brave souls even venture out into the North Sea for a quick New Year's dip in its icy waters! 

And after a long, chilly, brisk walk (or swim), there's nothing more gezellig than to come back to the house and have a warm glass of slemp, a flavorful hot tea drink made from milk, cinnamon, cloves, saffron, and sugar. It's traditionally a new year's drink: its warm spices and milk nourish the body and the brain (and is said to restrain regurgitating reflexes for those that partied a bit too hard last night). It's also the perfect drink to finish the leftover oliebollen from last night with :-)

Wrap your cold hands around a warm mug, sit back and put your feet up, sip slowly, and let's make a plan to get the most out of the new year that we can. We have 365 days of adventure, miracles, new directions, and excitement ahead of us - let's make it count! 

Slemp
2 cups milk (500 ml)
3 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 heaping teaspoon tea leaves, or 1 tea bag
Pinch of saffron
2 tablespoons sugar (or sweetener of choice)

Simmer the milk with the cloves, the cinnamon stick, the tea leaves, and the saffron until warm and flavorful, about fifteen minutes on low. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Makes 2 cups.