It would be very easy to be snotty about Dutch food and talk about snack bars, chicken with apple puree and the ubiquitous ‘ovenschotel’. We could go on and on about boiled chicory with ham and cheese sauce and meatballs with green beans and potatoes – served at 6pm sharp.
The classic Dutch dinner
But we won’t be doing any of that. We have a sneaking appreciation for some traditional Dutch recipes – especially those guaranteed to get you through the cold winters. Here are 10 you really should try.
1. Stamppot and its ilk
Let us get this out of the way to start with. When it comes to food it seems the Dutch like nothing better than to mash things. They cannot put a number of perfectly nice ingredients together without taking a hand blender to them. But then, it’s difficult to make a hash of a mash – the basic ingredients being simply potato and some vegetable or other. There is an endless list of things you can mash. Here’s some examples.
Hutspot is said to have originated in Leiden in 1574. The Spanish, on the run from William of Orange, lifted the siege of the city in a hurry and left a simmering pot of onions, carrots and parsnips (later to be replaced by potatoes). The famished people of Leiden, presumably all armed with forks, mashed the lot and invented hutspot. It is traditionally eaten with ‘klapstuk’ or boiled beef but we like it with bacon chops.
Hete bliksem means ‘hot lightning’ and is made of apple and potato, mashed up of course. Use sour apples (Goudreinette) and put in lots of crispy fried bacon cubes.
Guess which one this is?
Boerenkool and andijviestamppot are, respectively, potato and curly kale mash and potato and curly endive mash. Serve with rookworst (smoked sausage) and fried bacon bits. The more green vegetable the better. The other big hitter is zuurkool stamppot – pickled cabbage and mash which is a distinctly acquired taste.
2. Beetroot and herring salad
Another simple dish consisting of pickled herring, cooked beetroot, some gherkins, pickled onions, boiled potatoes and some white wine vinegar. Cut everything up in small pieces and mix (not mash).
Good camping food, a wentelteefje is a slice of white bread sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar dipped in milk and egg and then fried in butter.
Cut the crusts off as an extra touch
‘Ey, waer ick t’huys alleen, ick backte wentel-teven Van suyckert witte broot, en butter-smeerigh vet,’ wrote one A. van de Venne in 1623. ‘Were I home alone I would bake some wentelteven of sugared white bread and greasy butter.’ It must have been the 17th century equivalent of that ultimate solitary culinary pleasure, the bacon sandwich.
The origin of the word is a little obscure. ‘Wentelen’ means to turn over which is understandable enough but teefje mean ‘bitch’ and is therefore slightly puzzling. ‘Teef’ may have been a sort of confectionary in the olden days.
4. Spek en bonen
Another simple winter favourite: bruine bonen (brown beans), smoked bacon, throw together et voilà. ‘Voor spek en bonen meedoen’ originally meant to do something for very little remuneration and is one of several Dutch sayings involving beans. It now means your presence does not really bring anything to the proceedings.
5. Kapucijners with spek and piccalilly
We have no idea what the proper name for this dish is because everyone we ask has a different answer. This feast is based on big Dutch peas known as kapucijners which are cooked and then served with slices of bacon, smoked sausage, boiled potatoes, apple puree, silverskin onions and piccalilly… at least.
May also be known as the Captain’s Dinner, raasdonders or Zeeuwse rijstafel (with the addition of rice).
The perfect winter warmer. Draadjesvlees is beef that has been simmering in stock for about a month with a few spices thrown in. No, it’s not a month, but it is a good few hours – long enough for the meat to become very tender and fall apart in little threads, or draadjes.
Not a bit of mashed potato in sight
Not surprisingly, old-fashioned draadjesvlees has been reclaimed by the slow food movement. Serve with red cabbage and apple (from a jar) and boiled potatoes.
Beloved by some, gruesome childhood memory for others, griesmeelpudding is semolina pudding. It is often covered in bessensap, or berry coulis. Here’s a recipe, courtesy of Ingrid Weijers.
100 grams (3/4 cup) semolina flour
75 grams (1/3 cup) sugar
8 grams vanilla sugar (can substitute with 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
1 liter (4 1/4 cups) whole milk
1 egg white
- Beat egg white until stiff.
- Combine the semolina flour, sugar, salt and vanilla sugar (if you are using vanilla extract do NOT add it yet).
- Bring the milk to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Gradually add the semolina mixture while continuously stirring so that it does not burn.
- After 2 minutes, remove the pot from the heat. Continue to stir until the mixture is cooled. To speed up the cooling process, you can place the pot in a pan of cold water. (Add the vanilla extract to pudding as it cools if you are substituting.)
- When the mixture is no longer hot, fold in the egg white. This will give the pudding an airy quality.
- Pour the mixture into a pudding mold that has been slightly moistened. (I used six small silicone molds.) Lightly tap the mold on the counter in order to remove large air bubbles.
- Cover the mold with plastic wrap. When the pudding has cooled to room temperature, transfer the pudding to the refrigerator. Chill for 2 hours.
This is another dessert. You can buy it in the supermarket but don’t because it is laughably easy to make. All you need is a wet tea towel, a sieve and a container to sit under the sieve. Pour a litre of yoghurt onto the wet tea towel, cover and leave for 8 hours in the fridge.
Hangop in the making
What you are left with is hangop and very delicious it is too, especially with fruit or honey. The name has nothing to do with any hang ups the Dutch may have about the quality of their cuisine. The tea towel with yoghurt used to be ‘hung up’ for easy dripping hence the name.
No list of Dutch dishes would be complete without the perfect lunch on a winter’s day – thick, creamy, sausage-filled pea soup. Pumpernickel bread with katenspek (yes, smoked bacon again) on the side is a must, as is a strapping Belgian beer.
Here’s what you need:
- 1 1/2 cups (10.5 oz) dried green split peas (300 g)
- 3 1/2 oz Dutch speklapjes (fresh sliced pork belly), (100 g), or thick-cut bacon
- 1 pork chop (5-6 oz/150 g) 1 stock cube (you could use vegetable/pork/chicken)
- 2 celery sticks
- 2-3 carrots, sliced (1/2 cup/3 1/2 oz/100 g)
- 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 small leek, sliced (1/2 cup/3 1/2 oz/100 g)
- 1/4 celeriac, cubed (1/2 cup/3 /12 oz/100 g)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Here’s how you make it:
Bring 3 3/4 pints water (1.75 litres) to the boil in a large soup pot, along with the split peas, stock cube, pork chop and bacon. Skim off any froth forming on top. Put the lid on the pot and leave to boil softly for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Take the pork chop out with a pair of tongs, de-bone and thinly slice the meat. Set aside. Add the vegetables to the boiling broth and leave to cook for another 30 minutes, adding a little extra water every time the soup starts to catch.
Add the smoked sausage for the last 15 minutes, put the pork chop meat back in and then devour.
10. Haagse bluf
The name of this dessert roughly translates as ‘all talk and no substance from the Hague’ which may or may not have something to do with The Hague being the political capital of the Netherlands.
All hot air?
Haagse Bluf is a dessert made up entirely of fluff. Beat two egg whites with 100 grams of powdered sugar, then adorn with a bit of berry juice. Serve in a glass with ladies fingers biscuits.