The Dutch have a huge cookie culture. The shelves in the grocery store are loaded with sugary breads, cookies, tarts and every other product that can be eaten with a cup of coffee or tea. It is said that the Dutch will only offer you one cookie with your hot beverage, as they are so tight-fisted, but I have yet to experience that. Most hosts just leave the cookie jar on the table and invite you to help yourself.

A traditional Jodenkoeken cookie can.
Beside the coloring, flavors and shapes of the cookies, the most memorable are without a doubt their names: bokkepootjes (billygoat's legs), kletskop (bald head or chatterbox), Weesper moppen (blobs from Weesp), Arnhemse meisjes (girls from Arnhem), ijzerkoekjes (iron cookies), lange vingers (long fingers) or kattetongen (cat tongues). Another cookie with a huge following is the so-called "jodekoek" or Jewish cookies.

The story goes that Davelaar, a cookie baker, bought a bakery from a retiring Jewish baker in the early 1920. The bakery was famous for these large, sweet and buttery cookies and Davelaar continued to bake them, selling them in metal cookie cans and charging a deposit. During the seventies, the name of the cookie was considered not-politically-correct and Davelaar changed it for the export cookies, but never did for the national market. To this day it's called "Jodekoek" or Jewish cookie.

The size of the cookie is most remarkable, it measures a whopping 3.5 inches across. Not very impressive for an American cookie, but most certainly for a Dutch one. The ingredients are few but come together wonderfully as a sandy, buttery cookie: do make sure you use top quality ingredients.

1 stick of butter, room temperature
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 cup of self-rising flour, packed

Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the milk, the cinnamon and the sugar. Knead the flour into the mix, blending all the ingredients. Wrap in foil and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Dust the counter with flour and roll the dough thin, about 1/4th of an inch or less. Cut out the cookies with the help of a canning ring for widemouth jars, it's the right size. Place the cookies on parchment paper on a sheet pan and bake for approximately 15 minutes until golden brown. The last few minutes you may want to keep an eye on the cookies as they "over-brown" rather quickly.

Enjoy with a cup of hot tea, coffee or hot chocolate.

Hete Bliksem

 In this quest to investigate, research and write about the culinary traditions of my country, I stumble across some very interesting details. For one, I think there is nary a thing a Dutch person wouldn't add to a dish of mashed potatoes: we have mashed potatoes with carrots (hutspot), mashed potatoes with kale (boerenkool), mashed potatoes with sauerkraut, a whole array of mashed potatoes with greens and today I am making mashed potatoes with apple.

The potato was first introduced in the Netherlands in the early 1600's but was not officially recognized as fit for human consumption until 1727. Since then, the country has been producing a large variety of potatoes such as Eigenheimers, Bintjes, Alphas, Irenes, Gelderse muisjes. As with other agricultural products, Holland is one of the market leaders regarding the export on potatoes.

The traditional meal in Holland consists of the Dutch trinity: meat, vegetables and spuds. Most traditionally boiled, potatoes can also be served fried or mashed. One of my favorites are pan-fried potatoes: boil some extra potatoes the day before, chill them, then slice the next day and fry in some butter in a skillet until they are golden brown and crispy. Yum!

Hete Bliksem
Today's dish is called "hete bliksem" or hot lightning. Not entirely sure what generated the name. Some say it's because the high amount of liquid in the mash: the dish stays hot longer than other types of mashed potatoes. That is true, there is no additional milk needed to mash these potatoes and apples into a smooth consistency and it does stay warm longer. Other names for this savory and sweet potato dish are "heaven and earth" referring to the source of apples (heaven) and potatoes (earth), or "thunder and lightning".

The key is to use a mixture of sweet and tart apples, 2 parts potato, 1 part apple. Jonagolds, Braeburns and Jonathans will do well by themselves as they possess both flavors.

Hete Bliksem
8 large potatoes
4 apples (2 sweet, 2 tart)
4 slices of salted pork

Peel and cube the potatoes and place them in a pan with just enough water to cover them. Peel and core the apples, cut in halves and place on top of the potatoes, top with the slices of salt pork. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer for twenty minutes or until potatoes are done. Remove the pork, pour off the water (save some) and mash the apples and potatoes to your liking, lumpy or smooth. If it's too dry, add a tablespoon at a time of the cooking liquid. Taste. Adjust with salt and pepper if needed.

Slice the pork in narrow strips, mix in with the mashed potatoes and serve. Good with a lick of mustard.

Pasteitje met ragout

As Calvinistic as we are, bent on not having too much of anything and claiming that "being normal is crazy enough", we are set on extending the Christmas celebrations over two days instead of one. First Christmas Day is December 25th, Second Christmas Day is December 26th. And if you are part of those families that also celebrate Christmas Eve, that makes it two days and a half.

Christmas Eve is traditionally the night where you dress up, go to evening mass (even those that are not raised in the church will often attend) and upon return to the house round off the celebrations with hot chocolate and, how else, a bread meal with luxury rolls.

First Christmas Day is a formal dinner day and a day that is generally celebrated with family only. If you are invited to someone's home on First Christmas Day, and you are not family or in any way related, it is quite an honor! This is also the day that will determine where you stand, family-wise. In trying to keep the peace between families and in-laws, children often switch back and forth between families on 1st and 2nd Christmas Day: one year you will celebrate dinner at your parent's on the 1st, the next year it's at your significant other's parents. Being invited, or visited, on 2nd Christmas Day almost automatically classifies you as 2nd class family member......

Second Christmas Day is much less formal. It's when the leftovers are eaten, and everybody runs around in their "house suit", sweats and jammies, hanging in front of the TV or going for long, wintery walks to get some fresh air. Friends will sometimes come over for a drink and a chat, and a less formal dinner (not leftovers!!).

So many of these traditions are slowly changing but one of the standard items on Christmas Day is this appetizer or starter for the meal: a puff pastry cup filled with a chicken and mushroom gravy. It is so seventies, but it is one of those dishes that is comforting, filling and familiar at the same time.

I had some chicken leftover from last night's dinner club. It's getting close to Christmas and all of a sudden I had a hankering for a pasteitje met ragout.......You can also use leftover chicken from your Sunday roast. 

Pasteitjes, puff pastry shells, can be found in the store, in the freezer section. If you can't find them, make your own shells out of a sheet of puff pastry, or serve the ragout with rice or on bread.  

Pasteitje met ragout
For the pasteitjes:
2 sheets of puff pastry
1 tablespoon of flour
1 egg, beaten

Dust the counter with flour and thaw the sheets. Cut eight circles out of the pastry dough. Out of four of these circles, press a smaller circle from the middle. Wet the full circles with a little bit of water, place the rings on top and brush the whole pastry with egg. Place the cut outs on the side, poke them a couple of times with a fork so they don't puff up too much, and brush as well.

Bake on a sheetpan in a 425F oven for ten to twelve minutes or until golden and puffy. Cool on a wire rack.

1 tablespoon of butter
2 chicken breast
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 small can of mushrooms (or one cup of fresh mushrooms, sliced)
2 1/2 cups (500 ml) white wine
2 1/2 cup (500 ml) warm water
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 bay leaves
Sprinkle of thyme

For the gravy
1/3 (50 grams) cup flour
4 tablespoons (50 grams) butter

If you have time, marinate the chicken breast the night before in a bowl with the wine, water, onions, bay leaves, thyme and crushed garlic cloves. 

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven, add the sliced onion and the garlic cloves and sauté until translucent. Add in the mushrooms and continue to sauté for another two to three minutes, or until the mushrooms have a bit of a sear on them. Dry the chicken, cut it into large cubes, season it with salt and pepper and quickly sear it on all sides in the same pan. Add the wine, the warm water, and the bouillon cube and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, add the bay leaves, a sprinkle of thyme and pepper and simmer for at least 25 minutes, covered.

Take the chicken out of the stock. The meat should be tender enough that you can pull it apart with two forks. If not, return to the pan and simmer longer. Using a large sieve, separate the meat, mushrooms and onion from the liquid. 

In a different pan, melt the butter, stir in the flour and quickly make a paste. Add a ladle full of your cooking liquid to the sauce and stir until it's absorbed. Do the same with four more ladles, until you have a nice pan full of gravy. Now add the cooked meat, the mushrooms and the onion to the gravy. Taste and adjust the flavor with salt and pepper if needed.

Carefully place the pasteitjes on a plate, fill with ragout, sprinkle with some parsley if you want and serve!


Breakfast is always a treat in Holland. The amount of cold cuts is amazing, the cheese is fabulous and the large variety of breads always makes it difficult to choose from. If you're not in the mood for bread, you can pick a Dutch rusk, beschuit, a cracker or a large slice of Dutch "breakfast cake" or ontbijtkoek.

Ontbijtkoek is a cake-like quick bread, soft, sweet and with a variety of spices and flavors. The enticing mix of cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg is the basis for a large variety of different breads: ontbijtkoek is also known as peperkoek if it also contains a snuff of white pepper, honingkoek if it has an additional amount of honey, gemberkoek if the cake is studded with candied ginger or kandijkoek when the top of the cake is covered in sugary pearls.

Not all ontbijtkoeken are solely consumed for breakfast.  The koek can be sliced and eaten by itself, dry, or improved with a dab of real butter as a snack, or with a cup of coffee. Children will often get a slice to hold them over until dinner, and a popular game at birthdays and national celebrations is "koekhappen", cake nipping. Thick slices of ontbijtkoek are individually suspended on a larger rope, so that they dangle right above the heads of the, sometimes blindfolded, children. Adults on either side of the rope will lower the koek until right above the children's heads who, in order to get a bite out of the cake, have to jump up and nip at the delicacy. First one to finish the koek is declared the winner! The Dutch company Peijnenburg, famous for its koeken, uses koekhappen in most of their commercials: this one is still my favorite!

This morning I was in the mood for honingkoek. It's an easy cake to bake, it fills the house with lovely smells and it's a perfect afternoon snack for later. If you have all the ingredients, this cake can be on your breakfast table in the time it takes you to get the newspaper, make a pot of coffee and toast the bread.

This recipe is for an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan: double the recipe and you'll be able to bake two (save one in the freezer for later!), or bake a larger koek in a 9 x 5 loaf pan. If you do, stick to one egg, and increase your baking time to 50 minutes.

2 cups self-rising flour (300gr) or two cups regular flour and 2 tsp baking powder)
1/2 cup (75 grams) brown sugar 
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground aniseed (optional)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup of honey (75 gr)
1 cup of milk (120 ml)
1 egg

Grease an 8 x 4 cake pan. Preheat oven to 350F. Add all the dry ingredients to a bowl and mix together. Set the mixer on low and add the wet ingredients, one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice. Mix until you have a smooth batter, approx. 2 minutes. Pour the batter into the pan, bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the ontbijtkoek cool on a wire rack, then slice and serve with butter. Best saved in a plastic bag at room temperature, will keep for several days.


This morning, when I looked out the window, there was snow on the mountains, and the temperature had dropped significantly overnight. Seeing the snow and smelling the crisp air all of a sudden made me crave erwtensoep, a comforting Dutch split pea soup. It's no wonder that this soup is served when people take their new year's dip in the North Sea each January 1st - it is a stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup, hearty, comforting and provides plenty of fuel.

Split pea soup can also be found for sale in "koek-en-zopie" shacks on, or next to, the frozen canals and lakes. These shacks sell hot soup, mulled wine, coffee and cookies - a great way to warm up after a fun day on the ice!

Snert, another name for erwtensoep, is a popular dish in Holland, and will often be quoted as THE Dutch soup. As of February 2019, it has even been added to the list of Dutch intangible cultural heritages! But as popular as it may be, pea soup has been around much longer than we have, and many cultures have a version of soup made with peas. In our case, the soup features smoked pork meat and tends to be thick - in fact, so thick that a wooden spoon can stand up straight without falling over!

The soup can be served for lunch as the main dish, or as a starter. It is often served with dark rye bread and bacon on the side, or in this case, with plain pancakes. For a more exotic twist, people will sometimes serve erwtensoep over rice, with a lick of sambal or sriracha sauce and fried onions on top. If you're not in the mood for pancakes, and don't feel like rye bread, try the rice sometime!

This basic recipe is ready in less than an hour. The pork can come in a variety of ways: bacon, kielbasa, smokies, smoked neck bones.....You can chose only one, or combine two, but flavorwise, it's best to have at least one smoked meat product in there. I personally like a smoked rope sausage and two pork chops. Makes enough for four generous servings.

2 cups split peas (450 grams)
7 to 8 cups water (1.6 to 1.8 liters)
2 medium carrots, peeled
2 ribs celery (or one cup diced celery root)
1 small onion, peeled
2 bay leaves
Black pepper, optional
Pinch of salt, optional
About 12 little smokies, and/or a smoked rope sausage, rookworst, thick bacon or pork chops.

Rinse the split peas and remove anything that doesn't belong (stones, sticks, dried up discolored peas...). Put the peas and 7 cups of water in a soup pot. Chop the vegetables and add to the peas. Bring to a boil, add the bay leaves, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. Make sure the soup does not burn so give it a stir every now and then - and add some water if you feel the soup is getting too thick.

If you are using smoked pork chops, or neck bones, simmer them with the soup for a good twenty minutes, then remove and shred the meat. Add the meat back to the soup.

When the peas are soft, remove the bay leaf and either puree the soup with a stick blender or just stir the soup several times vigorously. The peas will dissolve and give it a creamy consistence. Stir in the little smoked sausages or the kielbasa (slice before adding), and heat the soup back up until the meat is hot. Taste the soup, and adjust the salt level if needed. Add a dash of black pepper, if you like.

This is an easy, quick solution for when you come home and want a filling, comforting soup. I always keep a pack of little smoked sausages or a kielbasa in the fridge just for that. Split peas do not have to be soaked in order to cook quickly so you can have this soup on the table in less than an hour.

1 1/2 cup (225 grams) flour
1 1/2 cup milk (350 ml)
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter (± 30 grams), melted but not hot
Butter to fry

Mix the flour, milk, eggs into a batter and add the salt, and the two tablespoons of butter. Cover and rest for thirty minutes. Heat a frying pan, on medium temperature. Melt one tablespoon of butter and add 1/2 cup of batter.  Flip the pancake when the bottom is golden and fry the other side. Makes six to 8 pancakes. Store under tea towel or pan lid to keep soft.

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