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!



One of the many strengths of our diverse kitchen are the local and regional specialties. Here I thought that, especially for the evening of Sinterklaas, I had covered all the food traditions: gevulde speculaas, taai-taai, kruidnoten and chocoladeletters. Imagine my surprise when I learned yesterday that in the province of Brabant, more specifically in and around the town of Veghel, Sinterklaas evening is not complete unless anijskrollen appear on the table.

These anijskrollen, anise curls, are soft and tender white rolls, flavored with both ground anise and anise seed. People eat them buttered and layered with speculaas cookies, and with a mug of hot chocolate. Bakers in a twelve mile radius around Veghel start baking these krollen, presumably so called because the knot in the roll represents the curl in St Nicholas's crosier, right around the time the kermis makes it to Veghel in September, and continue to bake them until Carnaval, usually in February. The busiest time around these rolls is Sinterklaas, where local bakers sell thousands of the rolls a day. For many Veghel-ers and surrounding areas it's just not Sinterklaas without them!

It is not clear when this tradition began, or why it is limited to just this particular region. Some people say that the anijskrollen have been sold in this area since the middle of the 19th century and found their origin in Veghel, but I have been unable to verify that claim. But the fact of the matter is that it is a popular practice now, and that many of those that were reared in this region or with this tasty tradition, consider it to be an important part of their Sinterklaas celebrations. So be it then, that tomorrow on Sinterklaas eve, we'll be gathered around the fireplace, ready to unwrap our presents, with a speculaas stuffed anijskrol in hand and hot chocolate within reach. Because, just because we weren't raised in this particular region of the country, shouldn't mean that we can't embrace new traditions and add them to our family's customs. Especially when it concerns these lovely, soft fluffy buns!

If you can't find ground anise, just double up your amount of anise seeds, or crush one teaspoon of anise seeds in a mortar and pestle or your spice grinder. If you want a sturdier bun, you can also substitute 1 1/2 cup of all purpose for whole wheat flour.

4 cups all purpose flour (500 grms)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (7 grms)
1/4 cup sugar (50 grms)
1 egg
4 tablespoons butter (50 grms), room temperature
1 3/4 cup lukewarm milk (300 ml)
1 teaspoon ground anise
1 teaspoon anise seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Sprinkle the yeast on top of the lukewarm milk (<110F/43C), and let it proof. In the meantime, mix the flour with the sugar and the anise and cinnamon. Add the milk when the yeast is proofed, the egg and the butter and knead it into a cohesive dough. Cover and let it rise for 30 minutes. Punch the dough down, and measure out 3 oz pieces. Roll each into a ball. You should be able to get 10 -12 rolls out of the mix.

Now take each dough ball and roll it into a rope, about 7 inches long and tie it into a knot. Tuck one end of the rope under the roll, and have the other end come out on top. Grease a baking form (either square 9 x 9, or a 9 inch round springform cake pan) and place the knots in the pan. Cover and let them rise, at room temperature, for 50 minutes or until they are doubled in size and puffy. Heat the oven to 400F and bake the rolls for 15 minutes, or until their internal temperature registers 190F/88C and rising.

After they've cooled, wrap in plastic to keep them soft.

Recipe adapted from the Nederlands Bakkerijmuseum Het Warme Land - a must visit if you can!

Hemelse Modder

Today, we're making a traditional chocolate dessert that comes with a unique name. Hemelse modder, heavenly mud, is a name that evokes images of cute little piggies rolling around in unctuous, chocolatey pools of sweet sludge, chocolate clay, divine get my drift. Or maybe that's just me :-) but let's face it: don't those two words sound at least intriguing and worth exploring, spoon in hand?

Chocolate, in its many forms, is no stranger to the Dutch. It is rumoured that the Spanish Duke of Alva introduced chocolate to the Netherlands, during his stay from 1566 to 1573. At the time, it was only consumed as a beverage which the Dutch called "seculatie", and served in coffee houses. 

But chocolate never really left once it arrived, and although surrounding countries like England, France and Germany pioneered the implementation of the cacao bean into other products, Dutch merchants controlled virtually the entire trade in cocoa beans. Amsterdam developed into the most important cocoa port in the world and several well known chocolate companies, such as Blooker and Van Houten got their start during these times. 

This last one, Van Houten, made an extremely significant mark in the global chocolate history. In 1815, Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten introduced alkaline salts to chocolate, which reduced its bitterness. Not satisfied with that development, a few years in 1828, he created a press to remove the natural fat (cacao butter) from chocolate, which made chocolate both cheaper to produce and more consistent in quality. This innovation introduced the modern era of chocolate. Known as "Dutch cocoa", this machine-pressed chocolate was instrumental in the transformation of chocolate to its solid form. 

With such an important role in our own economy, and that of the world, it is no surprise that chocolate in its many forms plays an important factor in our food history. We have chocolate for breakfast, in the form of hagelslag, chocolate sprinkles, or chocolate paste on our morning bread, a cup of hot chocolate to warm us up during cold skating days, and chocolate vla for dessert after our warm evening meal. And that is without mentioning bonbons, chocolate bars, candy bars and many other candies and confectionery that includes chocolate. Who doesn't look forward to the chocolate letter in their shoe for Sinterklaas? According to Forbes, the Dutch consume at least 10 lbs of chocolate per year, right above Americans who clock in at 9.5 lbs a year.

Which brings us right back to our recipe: hemelse modder, chocolate mousse. It's a rich, creamy dessert that can often be found on the dessert menu of Dutch restaurants, or made at home for special occasions. The traditional recipe calls for egg whites and egg yolks to be mixed in with melted chocolate. Delicious...but also a bit of a health hazard, as the eggs are not fully cooked. This recipe omits the eggs and uses whipping cream instead - and is surprisingly light, moussy and chocolatey. And best of all, it will be safe to eat!

Once you've made it and tried it, see if you can make it your own: add a splash of vanilla, maybe some cinnamon, or a pinch of chili. It's good by itself but there is no reason why you can't personalize it. Have fun! Makes approximate four cups of mousse.

Hemelse Modder
2 cups (472 ml) heavy whipping cream, divided
8 oz ( 225 grm) semi-sweet or dark chocolate
2 tablespoons sugar (or more, if you like it sweeter)
Raspberries or other fresh fruit, optional

Slowly warm half of the heavy whipping cream with the chocolate on the stove, stirring, until the chocolate is just melted. There is no need to bring it up to high heat, just warm will be enough to melt the chocolate.

Set aside to cool. When it's cold, whip the rest of the cream with the sugar until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the cold chocolate mixture into whipping cream, trying to not loose any air. Slowly pour the mixture into serving dishes (you can also use mugs, bowls or glasses), cover each one with plastic wrap or cling film and return to the fridge to set up. It should take about an hour and a half, to two hours, to set up.

Decorate with a dollop of whipped cream, fresh fruit or chocolate sprinkles, whip out your favorite spoon and enjoy!!!!

Rode Bessensaus

In a traditional Dutch household, as soon as dinner is over, the plates are cleared (although some families will also use their dinner plate for dessert, so as to save washing more dishes!) and the various cartons of vla, yogurt, pudding or pap make their way to the table. Very often, a variety of choices are available as each family member tends to favor one flavor of another: I for one loved hopjesvla, but could also appreciate a creamy vanillevla or chocoladevla!

Together with the dairy cartons, a smaller glass bottle will make its appearance. It contains a thick, red liquid. Now watch the people at the table. As the bottle is passed from one person to the other and makes its way around the table, those that have not yet been able to pour some of its contents on their dessert, guard it closely to make sure nobody takes more than their share, and that there is something left for them! And no wonder, because this small bottle holds Tova, a puddingsaus, also known as "toversaus", magic sauce, because of its name and its possibilities to change your dessert into something even better!

Image result for tova dessertsaus
Source: Albert Heijn
Nowadays, Tova puddingsaus is called dessertsaus, and is meant specifically for that: ice cream, vla, pap, yogurt and even pancakes. Tova has been around for almost a hundred years and is still popular today. It used to be produced by the De Betuwe fruit company from Tiel, where Flipje the mascot came from. Nowadays, Tova is produced by the international Hero company.

The sauces used to come in many flavors: strawberry, cherry, chocolate, banana.....but the most favorite sauce tended to be the red berry sauce, rode bessensaus. It was sweet and slightly acidic at the same time, perfect for cutting through sweet dairy desserts, and often specifically served with farina pudding, griesmeelpudding or buttermilk pudding, karnemelkpudding. Nowadays, Hero limits its production to strawberry, raspberry, caramel and chocolate.

Bessensaus is traditionally made from aalbessen, fresh red currants (ribes rubrum), but can also be prepared with a mixture of red currants, strawberries or raspberries, if currants are hard to come by.

4 cups freshly picked currants (about 450 grams)
1/4 cup water (60 ml)
1/4 cup sugar ( 85 grams)
1 vanilla bean (optional

Pick the stems from the currants, wash the berries and add them to a thick bottomed pan with the 1/4 cup of water, sugar and the vanilla bean. After ten minutes, remove the vanilla bean, split it down the middle and scrape the seeds out. Return the seeds to the pan, as well as the remainder of the vanilla bean. Simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes, until the berries have softened and released their juice.

Remove the vanilla bean. Pour the berries and the liquid into a sieve and use a spatula or wooden spoon to squash the berries through the sieve into a bowl. The seeds and skins remain in the sieve, and you should have a thick berry sauce in the bowl. If the sauce is too watery, return it to the pan and reduce it, or thicken it with a little bit of cornstarch. If you dip a spoon into the sauce and are able to draw a line on the back of the spoon with your finger, it is thick enough.

Taste the sauce and decide if you want it sweeter. If so, add a bit more sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. You can now freeze* the sauce, or keep it in the fridge, but no longer than ten days. With any sign of spoilage such as mold, discoloration or bubbly foam, discard the sauce immediately.

Makes approximately 2 cups (500 ml) of sauce, depending on reduction.

* I split the sauce between several small freezer jam jars and keep the sauce in the freezer. I only pull a small jar at a time and let it thaw in the fridge before using it for dessert. This will help keep your product fresh.