Sunday, 16 November 2014

N for Netherlands

Dee:  “For a country so close to my own I was surprised at how little I knew of Dutch cuisine.  Sure, I’d heard of the cheese that is perhaps the country’s best known food, but that is only part of a meal rather than dish in itself.  I had vague notions of there being a baking tradition with various pastries and Tiger Bread originating there but that was about it.
As it turned out, Dutch cuisine turned out to be simple and unfussy but hearty and nutritious.  It included familiar ’meat and two veg’ type ingredients and cooking styles, and with a rich baking tradition of fine cakes and biscuits.  All in all, I found it to be closer to the cuisines of the English and Germans than the French.
One more snippet of information I knew about Dutch cuisine; orange coloured carrots were developed in the Netherlands, so that gave me a starting point for devising the menu.”


Bitterballen
Dee:  “These were described as a Dutch bar snack, enjoyed with a glass of beer, which endeared them to me straight away.  Instead of fresh parsley, we added some dried mixed herbs, which complimented the beef and onion that formed most of the mixture.  We’re still watching the calories so baked them rather than deep frying them, and I'll be honest, they didn't look good enough to photograph, but what they lacked in appearance, they certainly made up for in taste.  We managed to source a sweet German mustard from the Christmas Market which opened in Birmingham a few days ago, and this proved a perfect accompaniment, as did the very fine Dutch Trappist Beer.
I would love to see some bitterballen in pubs here.  I’m sure they would prove popular”
Jay:  “Not so much Bitterballen, more Amazeballen!”

Hutspot met Klapstuk
Dee:  “The Hutspot element of this dish was a type of three root mash made from carrots, potatoes and onions, while the accompanying Klapstuk was sliced braised beef.  A beef gravy completed the plate, making a very familiar tasting dish. It was ideal as a winter warmer.
As with the starter, we decided to enjoy it with a glass of beer, the well-known Grolsch lager this time.”

Spiced Biscuits and Coffee
Dee:  “I was originally going to bake a Boterkoek (Butter Cake) for dessert, but decided that it might be a bit too heavy to follow on from the previous course, so instead went for a recipe known as Kruidnoten.  They were described as pebble-sized cookies enjoyed around December time, but as the photo shows, ours ended up like biscuits. 
We’re a bit early time-wise, but I liked the look of them and wanted to give them a go, as we could be absolutely anywhere in the culinary world come December.  Besides, Birmingham’s annual Christmas Market has just opened, so for the purposes of this blog entry, we can class the festive season as having now started.  Rather than beer this time, we served these little treats with some coffee, as the source web site described the Dutch as having a fondness for both cookies and coffee.
As they were baking the aroma from the kitchen was fantastic.  The taste was sweet, spicy and warming all at the same time.  Leaving the dough overnight to allow the flavours to infuse certainly had an effect as the cookies were full of flavour.
I can see us making these again before Christmas.” 

Soundtrack:  Rowwen Heze - Boem
Dee:  “Rowwen Heze are part of a Dutch music scene known as Boerenrock, which I’d not heard of before so decided to give it a go.
The music had a traditional, folky sound and reminded me of a German ‘oompah’ band, though faster paced, and a Cajun band.  It was accordion led, with guitar and snare drum accompaniment, and lead vocal in Limburgish-Dutch.
There was a distinct ‘party’ feel to the music, and I could imagine the band being well received in a live setting, or at a beer festival with everyone enjoying a drink or two.”

Next Week:  O for Oman

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