A thousand Facebook likes!

Gefeliciteerd!! We just reached our first 1,000 likes on Facebook and, as promised, we'll celebrate in a properly fashion! Stay tuned for more exciting news to come :-)

By the way, like the card? Check out the Simply Dutch website (www.simplydutch.com) for great designs, children's clothing and accessories, all from Dutch designers!

Spinazie met soldaatjes

The weather is starting to warm up (slightly) here in the Northern Hemisphere, enough to make me want to reach for my gardening gloves. I've browsed through all the seed catalogues that have been pouring in, placed several orders because I just can't help myself, and as soon as the temperature warms up this morning (it is sunny but still below freezing), I am going to venture out and start working the raised beds. Soon it will be time to start planting cool season crops! 

I am also really, really ready to clean the flower beds as I can see the tulips and daffodils tips poking out, but I also know that plenty of beneficial insects are still sleeping among the leaves, so I will give that a miss for now. But as soon as the days measure 50F (10C) or more for a week, I'm going in! 

Going through the seed collection always puts a smile on my face. I'm reminded of gluts of vegetables last season, some of the failures, and I am excited to try new things. One of those is spinach, perfect for early season growing. I can't for the life of me remember why I have never grown spinach before, and I am going to guess it's because, even though I like it as a vegetable, it somehow hardly ever shows up at the table. 

A quick look through my many Dutch cookbooks explains why: spinazie, spinach, is only featured in a few recipes: as a soup, in stamppot, or sautéed (with or without cream). Spinach was traditionally served with fish, not with meat. One traditional way of serving spinach is with soldaatjes, soldiers, which are fried strips of bread.   

Older recipes mention boiling the spinach with a little bit of chalk to reduce that odd feeling that spinach gives the back of your teeth. Eating it with an egg, or with cream, replaces the chalk. 

Spinach is a tricky vegetable to serve kids, right along with spruitjes and boerenkool, but made from fresh produce and with a splash of fresh cream, it may work just fine. And if they don't eat it, try the traditional Dutch approach of mashing the veg with boiled potatoes and a big helping of appelmoes, apple sauce! Works every time :-)

Spinazie met soldaatjes
2 eggs
2 lbs (1 kg) fresh spinach, although frozen spinach will work as well
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 slices of bread, day old
2 tablespoon butter
Garlic (optional)
Generous splash of cream (optional)

Boil the eggs in water, (6 minutes for soft, 8 to 10 minutes for hard boiled eggs), rinse with cold water. Let cool for a minute, then peel and slice.

Wash the spinach and remove any sand, any hard or root ends of the stem or wilted leaves. Cut the korstjes, the crusts, off the bread and cut it into strips. Melt half of the butter in a pan, fry the onions until they are translucent. Shake the water off the spinach and add to the pan, stir once or twice, cover and leave on low heat to wilt the leaves.

Stir the spinach. Heat the rest of the butter in a small frying pan and fry the bread on either side until golden brown. Taste the spinach, add a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir. If you wish, you can add a splash of heavy cream at this point, stir, and bring up to temperature.

Serve the spinazie with the egg slices and the soldaatjes.


If you're not Dutch, or were not raised by Dutch parents, the fixation with apple sauce may leave you wondering. Most of us love our appelmoes, and it is very often a side dish to the main meal of the day. 

As children move on from puréed baby food and start sharing the same meal as their parents, their boiled potatoes and vegetables are often prakked together with pan gravy and apple sauce. It makes for a sweet-and-salty taste and a mushy texture, and it is great for masking the more bitter tastes of traditional vegetables such as boerenkool (kale), spruitjes (Brussels sprouts) or zuurkool (pickled cabbage). Most children will consume the sweet applesauce with their warm dinner and consequently, many an adult will continue the tradition, whether it’s with homemade applesauce or store bought. 

Children's menus at Dutch restaurants will invariably offer appelmoes on the side, and a very old-fashioned but oh-so-satisfying entrée to order is chicken with French fries and apple sauce. Kinderen Voor Kinderen, a Dutch children's choir, sang a very catchy tune about it: kip, patat en appelmoes. And it's a thing to dip your hot and salty French fry in the mayonnaise first, and then in the cold and sweet apple sauce. Don't knock it until you try it!

The weather is slowly cooling down and Fall is just around the corner. The apple trees are ready to share their bounty, so let's prepare some appelmoes! The sauce can be held in the fridge for a couple of days, or can be frozen or canned. Please follow your local Extension office recommendations regarding canning procedures.

8 large apples (approx. 1.5 kgs) - preferably a variety of flavors
2 tablespoons (approx. 30 ml) lemon juice
2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar, optional
¼ cup (60 ml) water
Cinnamon stick, optional

Peel, core and chop the apples. Toss with the lemon juice. Add the apples with the lemon juice, sugar (optional) and water to a saucepan with a heavy bottom and slowly bring up to a simmer. Cover and simmer the apples until done. This won't take long so don't take your eye off the pan. Leave it chunky or mash it slightly to create a finer texture. Taste and adjust the sweetness, or the flavor of cinnamon as preferred. Freeze, refrigerate or can for later use. 


The whole reason why I ended up with a recipe for Caramelco started with this great news in Forbes Magazine: Eindhoven is the top most inventive city of the world! We already knew this of course, as Eindhoven was the starting point in 1891 for Philips, a company that has pioneered many technological inventions and industrial changes throughout history, and still is, to this day.

Curious as to whether this city in North Brabant had a particular claim on any type of food, I started researching its culinary past. I found mentions of lektoeten (stroopsoldaatjes) and poeliepek (dropwater) which seem to be more nationally known. But one product that was famous in the 1960's and 70s was a product made in the nearby vicinity of Eindhoven, in a small community called Bergeijk.

Here, from 1913 until 1980, the milk processing operation Saint Bernardus (later acquired by Campina) produced, among other things, koffiemelk (condensed coffee creamer) . Story goes that one of the sweetened condensed milk cans got stuck in the autoclave, and after being heated for a prolonged amount of time the contents of the can turned into a sweet, caramelized spread. The factory was quick to reproduce the error and marketed the brown goop under the name Caramelco, which quickly turned into a popular sandwich topping.

And that's really not all that surprising either. Given the fact that we have a huge sweet tooth and love to decorate our open-faced sandwiches with all kinds of sweets possible (stomped mice, anyone?), the product gained a huge following until the factory was acquired by Campina and production of Caramelco ceased. Which leads me to think that the perceived market spread wasn't so huge after all, but what do I know? They still sell  dubbelzoute drop and let's face it, not that many (besides me) can be enamored by the taste of doubly-salted-ammonia-flavored black rubber, right? Right.

Nowadays, Caramelco still remains in the flavor-memory of many that grew up with this broodbeleg. With the globalization of our cuisines and culinary discoveries, it appears that Caramelco most certainly exists in other cultures, where it is known as manjar or dulce de leche. There is therefore no more need to yearn for the past! Even better, Caramelco is very easy to make. It can be used as a sweet spread on bread, but also consider using it as a barrier between your apple pie filling and your dough, or as a filler for cookies. And when in doubt, just eat a spoonful....it's good :-)

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Add the can of condensed milk to a sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil and simmer for two hours. Be sure to keep the can under water at all times. After two hours, turn off the stove and let the can cool. When cool to the touch, open and taste.


Summer is a time for as little cooking as possible: we choose cold dishes such as huzarensalade to serve with the evening boterham, or a lekkerbekje from the fish cart at the market. Anybody who has ever had a slice of Dutch brown bread, good butter, mature cheese and fresh slices of tomato or cucumber knows that it is a very satisfying meal indeed!

But when weather permits (how we love it when the sun shines!), everybody and their dog pulls out the charcoal grill, the gourmet kit or fondue pot. Friends are called, neighbors are let in on the plans, and a grill-out is planned for the back patio, the balcony or, by lack of both, simply on the stoep. The local butcher sells "barbecue pakketten", a collection of seasoned meats: pork chops, beef skewers, sausages and very often fresh sliced pork, or speklappen.

But if you're not in the mood for large cookouts, lots of meat or having plenty of people over, treat yourself to a cup of soup. Sorrel, or zuring, grows freely in fields and along ditch banks, and in the old days it was often used to make a quick, early summer soup, one of the first greens to be enjoyed. My mother remembers her grandmother gathering zuring from the meadow and making this soup. It is also known as spinach dock.

Zuring, as its name indicates, has a slight sour taste to it, but it is also very refreshing. Combine it with the aforementioned cheese sandwich, or simply with some toast, and you're set. No need to heat up the kitchen at all but for a short time to get the soup ready, easy-peasy!

Sorrel can be easily grown from seed and will do well in pots or planters. It is rich in Vitamin C and iron.

2 large handfuls of sorrel leaves
1 tablespoon of butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
Sour cream (optional)

Cut the stems off the leaves and discard if too woody, then chop the leaves and tender stems into pieces. Heat the butter in a saucepan, sauté the garlic and onion until soft. Add the potato, and the chopped leaves on top and stir for a second, then pour in the vegetable or chicken stock. Cover, bring up to a light simmer and cook for ten minutes at low heat or until the potatoes are done. Purée, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir in a tablespoon of sour cream if desired.