I've been wanting to make ranja, lemonade syrup, for a while now and when I spotted these Meyer lemons I knew I had the perfect fruit for it. Meyer lemons (Citrus × meyeri) are hard to find and only have a short season but when they make their appearance on the shelves in grocery stores and produce sections, they disappear quickly. These lemons are thought to be a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange, and were discovered in China by Dutch botanical explorer Frank Meyer (née Frans Meijer). The flesh of this fruit is less acidic and a tad more sweet, lending it perfect for our purpose today.

Lemons aside for a moment, this Frans Meijer was an interesting man! Born in Amsterdam in 1875 as Frans Nicholaas Meijer, he showed an early interest in plants and worked in the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam. Meijer emigrated to the United States in 1901 and started working for the United States Department of Agriculture. He naturalized in 1905 and changed his name to Frank Meyer. Frank lead several plant exploring expeditions into Central Asia until his death in 1918: and on one of those expeditions he discovered the lemon that is now named after him. That's his picture next to the glass of lemonade. Quite the handsome fellow!

Now, ranja is one of those childhood memories that are hard to forget. The sweet orange or lemon flavored lemonade was a special treat during birthday parties and summer festivities when we were kids, long before commercial carbonated beverages made their way into the household. A splash of sweet syrup was mixed with cold tap water in a glass and stirred, and you were good to go! Nowadays, only the youngest of children will sometimes get ranja: most kids will prefer carbonated lemonades or colas over the sweet, non-sparkling beverage.

The actual name for the syrup is limonadesiroop, but Ranja was a brand name that became the common name for all lemonade syrups, regardless of their flavor. Popular tastes were lemonade, orange, reine claude (a bright green syrup!) and strawberry.

Limonadesiroop, or ranja, is very easy to make.  You can substitute the amount of of lemon juice for orange or strawberry juice, or make your own version with fresh herbs (mint, lavender, basil) to make a refreshing drink this summer. I often use carbonated soda water to mix with ranja for that extra refreshing zing.

"Zij dronk ranja met een rietje, mijn Sophietje" sang Johnny Lion happily, in the 1960's. Now you can, too!

2 cups (475 ml) lemon juice (from about 8 to ten Meyer lemons)
4 cups (800 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon citric acid

Strain the lemon juice through a coffee filter or cheese cloth to get a clear juice. Bring the lemon juice and sugar to a boil in a non-reactive pan on the stove. Turn down the heat to low and skim the foam off the surface several times. Let simmer for a good five minutes, then stir in the citric acid. When the granules have dissolved, cool down the syrup to room temperature and store in clean, sanitized bottles.

The syrup should be refrigerated and used relatively quickly - within a couple of weeks. The citric acid will prevent rapid spoilage, but any signs of mold, foam or discoloration on the syrup after storage indicates that the syrup is not fit for consumption and needs to be discarded. If you don't drink ranja that often, it's better to cut the recipe in half and make small batches.

Proost, Frans!

Happy New Year!

The last day of 2015 - thank you for a wonderful year! 

The Dutch Table is planning some new and exciting changes for 2016 and we can't wait to share it with you. In the meantime, have a wonderful, safe and gezellig New Year's Eve, make fun plans for 2016 and above all, stay happy and healthy. 

We'll see you on the other side!!!


The taste of tijmsiroop always brings back a particular memory from my Dutch childhood. I must have been around eight or nine years old. It's cold outside, and it's late in the evening. It's a school day but I'm pretending to not feel very good. My throat hurts a little. "Mom," I call out, "my throat hurts. I don't think I can go to school tomorrow." I even try to make my voice sound a bit raspy, a bit scratchy. For good measure, I throw in a cough or two: uche-uche.... "See? I think I'm too sick for school." 

My mom, of course, is not deceived by my pathetic theatrics. I can't see her but I'm sure she's rolling her eyes at me. Another bout of fake coughing..uche-uche-uche... this time a bit louder so I can be sure she hears me. "Mama! I'm still coughing. Maybe I could have a little bit of hoestsiroop? I'm sure I'll feel better tomorrow!" I can hear her chuckle before she comes upstairs with the bottle of cough syrup. She obviously doesn't believe me, and she knows that I know. That's alright though, because I am about to get my prize: a spoonful of thyme cough syrup!

Tijmsiroop, or thyme syrup, is a cough medicine that is safe for kids to take and it's the flavor of many Dutch adults' childhood, much like cherry-flavored cough syrup is here in the United States. Thyme syrup is available over the counter at the local pharmacy, apotheek, and it tastes great! It is sweet, sticky and has that typical herbal thyme flavor to it - not too much, but just enough. It used to be sold in small brown bottles and make us feel oh-so grown up when we were sick enough to get a spoonful!!! Of course, you would never get more than the recommended dosage, because even though it was safe for kids, it was still supposed to be medicine and make you feel better. Especially if it was obvious that you just coughed and sputtered so that you could have a taste! Ahem....

And it's been around for a long while - an advertisement from the Graafschap Bode, from March 2nd 1932, shows that J.W. Kroon recommends tijmsiroop, among other interesting sounding concoctions, against "hoest en verkoudheid", coughs and colds.

Best of all, it's easy to make. If you've never had it before, it may become a safe addition to your natural medicine cabinet - if you have, it will be a pleasant memory from days past. You can take a spoonful directly from the bottle, or stir it into a glass of hot tea, or milk - it's sure to soothe any sore throat, upcoming cold or nasty cough (even fake ones!). Beterschap!

1.5 oz of fresh thyme, rinsed (preferably organic)
3 cups water
2 cups sugar

Bring the water to a simmer and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Lower the heat on the stove, and add the thyme (stems and all) to the pot. Cover and simmer on low for twenty minutes: don't boil, but just barely simmer.

Remove the thyme from the liquid. Test the remaining liquid to see how syrupy it is. If it's too watery, just let the liquid simmer uncovered and reduce it to about 2 cups. Cool and store in a jar, in the fridge. Don't hold it for longer than a month or two.

If you wish, you can use honey instead of sugar, or add fresh ginger, a pinch of cinnamon, or a splash of lemon or lime juice to make this thyme syrup your own. 


We tend to think of rabarber, rhubarb, as a typical Dutch vegetable. Many of us remember the ubiquitous rhubarb plant in the moestuin, the garden, of our grandparents. Some of us chewed on a stalk or two when thirsty, others stayed away from it as far as possible. And not without reason: the astringency of rhubarb is enough to make your face pucker!

Rhubarb made it to the Netherlands in the early 1700's - not the stalks, but the root of the rheum rhabarbarum was popular at the time: it had laxative properties for those in need of such medicine and was much desired by merchants and apothecaries alike. Het Nederlands Magazijn, a popular publication in the 1900th century, discusses both Chinese and Russian rhubarb, and mentions several other varieties. In the Netherlands, once rhubarb was introduced, through the English, who already mention recipes with rhubarb stalks in the mid to late 1800's.

However, the Dutch did not embrace this plant until the late, late 1900s. Although recipes are still limited to sweet concoctions such as rabarbermoes, rabarbersiroop, rabarbercake and rabarbervlaai, the country is slowly but surely tapping into the many possibilities of this versatile tangy, oxalic-acid rich vegetable. The people at the famous Historische Groentenhof, the historical vegetable courtyard, are returning Dutch heirloom rhubarb varieties from elsewhere, with names as Donkere Bloedrode, Scheemdermeer, Amersfoorter Roem and Zwolse Rode.

Restaurants in the country are getting ready to celebrate their second annual Dutch Rhubarb Week, from the 18th through the 28th of June. And these chefs are not just cooking pastries and pies with it, but branch out into every aspect of their culinary experience: rubs, marinades, soups and even a rhubarb liqueur is on the menu!

As for us here at The Dutch Table, we're making one of our most favorite summer desserts: rabarbervla, or rhubarb pudding. It's a tangy, sweet, creamy type of pudding that is easy to make, and is very refreshing! We don't add sugar to the rhubarb until after the warm sauce is made and cooled off: this way it takes less sugar to sweeten it.

1 lb rhubarb, washed and diced (approx. 4 cups)
1/2 cup water
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
Optional: strawberries*

Put the diced rhubarb on the stove with the 1/2 cup of water, and simmer slowly, for about fifteen minutes, or until the pieces are soft and falling apart. Mash them with a fork until all the lumps are gone. In a separate bowl, stir the two egg yolks with the corn starch. Add a tablespoon of hot rhubarb sauce to the eggs and stir until the rhubarb is incorporated. Do this two or three more times: you are tempering the eggs to the temperature of the rhubarb, so that when you stir in the egg yolks you don't end up with scrambled eggs! Now, stir the egg yolk mixture into the remaining sauce in the pan and stir, on medium heat, for a minute or two until the mixture thickens. When you are able to trace a line on the bottom of the pan and the sauce does not immediately fill in the void, it's done. Set aside and cool.

When the sauce is sufficiently cooled, stir in the 1/4 cup of sugar. Taste. If it's too tangy, add a little bit more, but not too much, as the whipped cream is also sweetened.

Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form, adding two tablespoons of sugar** at the end. Save about half a cup, and fold the rest into the cold rhubarb. Sometimes, the acidity of the rhubarb will cause the whipped cream to curdle: you'll see small dots of white in the sauce. If this happens, don't panic: take a stick blender to the sauce and the lumps will disappear.

Pour the vla in four chilled cups, add a dollop of whipped cream on top and garnish with a strawberry or a lange vinger

** You are welcome to add up to half a cup of chopped strawberries to the sauce: it will make it sweeter and more red.

*You can also use sweetener or vanilla sugar, if you'd like.


Your kids will most surely not be impressed when they hear you're serving spruitjes for dinner. And let's face it, quite a few adults will also pout at the thought. The thing with Brussels sprouts is that you either love them, or you hate them, but few are indifferent to the enticing (or revolting, depending on what side you're on) taste of spruitjes.

Brussels sprouts, those little miniature green cabbages on a stalk, have been grown for centuries in Europe, reportedly brought in with the Romans, presumably grown in Brussels (hence the name), although the history is a bit lacking on the initial provenance of the vegetable. I guess even back then spruitjes weren't all that much to get excited over. It never deterred the Dutch, though. Whether you prefer them boiled, mashed, shredded..... the Dutch have a recipe for it. We love our spruitjes!

And why not? The good-natured sprout is chock-full of vitamin C. One cup of these lovely green leafy marbles provides you with one and a half times your daily value of vitamin C. I mean, really! That's more than an orange will give you any day.

And this wintry weather sure asks for plenty of vitamin C. Many of us are still trying to recover from a nasty cold *cough*. Another thing we can never get enough of is a good stamppot. Let's face it, it's the ultimate Dutch comfort food: a plate of steaming stamppot , whether it's hutspot, zuurkool, boerenkool or hete bliksem, has chased many a winter blues away. And today we're adding spruitjesstamppot to the list!

The key to spruitjes cooking is time: not too long, so as to maintain the amount of vitamins, but also to avoid the well-known "spruitjeslucht", the smell of overcooked sprouts. Mixed in with the vegetables, spruitjes lose some of their dreaded bitterness and become palatable even to the most fervent sprout-hater. And if it doesn't? Well, hey, more for you! ;-)

1 tablespoon (15 grams) butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced
4 fresh bratwurst
1 cup (250 ml) water
1/2 beef bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
2 lbs (1 kg) potatoes
1 lb (500 grams) Brussels Sprouts
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Melt the butter in a skillet and fry the onions until golden brown. Take out of the skillet and set aside. Now fry the brats in the skillet until brown. Lower the heat, add the onions back in the pan. Add a cup of warm water, half a beef bouillon cube and a bay leaf to the pan, cover and let the meat simmer on the back burner.

In the meantime, peel, wash and quarter your potatoes.  Wash the sprouts, cut the hard bottom end off if needed (after being cut off the stalk, the bottom end of the sprout will dry out and become hard) and cut the bigger sprouts in half. Put the potatoes, with a generous pinch of salt and just enough water to cover them, on the stove and bring to a boil. Cover with a fitting lid.

After ten minutes, add the Brussels sprouts on top of the potatoes, cover and boil for another ten minutes. Lift the lid and see it the potatoes are done - the sprouts should be bright green by now! If the potatoes are done (it should be easy to poke a fork right through the potato) and the sprouts seem tender as well, take the pan off the stove. Drain the cooking liquid but do not throw it away!

Mash your potatoes and sprouts - if you have a potato masher, that's great, if not just use a large fork. Blending or whipping potatoes in a mixer will turn the whole thing into a glue-like paste! Pour a quarter cup of cooking liquid into the mashed potatoes and fold in the liquid. Taste (careful, it's hot!!). Do you like the texture, or is it too crumbly? If you want it smoother, add another quarter cup of liquid and fold it in again. Also adjust your salt at this time.

Mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with a quarter cup of cold water and stir well. Take the brats and the onions out of the pan, bring the gravy to a boil and stir in the cornstarch slurry until the gravy thickens.

Serve a steaming plate of spruitjesstamppot, add a bratwurst and pour some onion gravy over it, and eet smakelijk!!