Un bol de soupe pour Sophie!

January 15th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

There’s nothing like a fuming cup of Erwtensoep (dutch pea soup) to warm you up from head to toe during the cold dutch winter days…


My friend Sophie would definitely agree with me… Although, she might not be the most objective on that one: she likes it so much she would also ask for it when visiting me in april! She’s been begging for the recipe for years now… With the great tips provided by my butcher and the icy weather from the last couple of weeks I really didn’t have anymore excuses to keep her waiting any longer, so here it is…

» Read the rest of this entry «

Stewed pears, candied lemon and almond tiles

February 3rd, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Pears are definitely my favourite fruit in the cold season. They are a dutch local too. Stewed pears are typical in holland, served warm, as a side dish with game or simply as a desert with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream… mmmmm. It’s been a while I’ve been willing to try cooking them by myself, but like many other dishes I never got to it.

When I came across Julia‘s inspiring bag of goodies for her monthly in the bag challenge, I had to sigh. Pears, lemon and nuts… It was the perfect occasion, yet I’d thought I’d never get to it on time before the deadline, and of course, I didn’t, it was just too busy last week… But anyway, this morning, while my dutchie was being grumpy about his cold and showed no sign of interest for anything else but catching up on his Prison Break DVD’s, I had all the time in the world to experiment in the kitchen…

stewed pears


Thanks to Julia, I finally made my own stewed pears poached with lemon peel and heartwarming spices. I topped them with a caramelized reduction of their cooking juices and served them slightly warm, with a spoon of whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon and candied lemon peel. For the crunch and for the nut part, I added homemade almond tiles.

 A perfect sunday tea time!

stewed pears (2)

For the stewed pears, I used the most common stewing pears in the Netherlands, the Gieser Wilderman variety. As a basis for the recipe, I inspired myself from my favourite dutch cooking book “Dutch cooking – The new kitchen” from Manon Sikkel and Michiel Klonhammer, with a few adjustments in the spices and in the cooking time: traditional recipes call for cloves, vanilla and sometimes cinnamon, but I was not in the mood for cloves although I wanted to spice up my pears a bit. In addition to the vanilla and cinnamon, I used green cardamom, star anise and black pepper. In the book, they call for a cooking time of 1h30 on very low heat, but I guess I went to low on the heat and had to stew my pears for an extra half hour on medium heat before they were ready. They came out just fine, nicely coloured and delicately perfumed. For the final touch, I kept the lemon peel and half of the cooking liquids. I reduced a fourth of the liquids in a thick caramel syrup in which I candied the lemon peel cut in thin stripes.

For the almond tiles, after hesitating between the fancy recipe from my Larousse des Desserts and the minute made one from my french-cooking-made-simple bible “Francoise Bernard – Les recettes illustrées”, I chose for the second option so that I too could have a pick at the Prison Break grand final! I kind of missed the last stage which call fo curling the almond tiles on a pastry roll as soon as they are out of the oven. I was too slow on that one and my tiles remained depressingly flat. Nevermind, flat roofs are in fashion lately!

But, enough with the blabla, here’s for the result and the recipes:

stewed pears (3)
Here’s how my sunday tea time turned out.

Dutch style stewed pears
Poires pochées à la hollandaise

serves 6 pers.
prep: 10 min. cook: 2 hrs (+ 15 min for the caramelized syrup)

6 Gieser Wilderman pears (or any other stewing pears), peeled,
enough water to cover,
peel and juice of 1 lemon,

1 cinnamon stick,
1/2 vanilla pod,
3 green cardamom pods,
6 black peppercorns,
2 star anise parts,
5cl xeres vinegar,
10 cl red wine,
150 g sugar.

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot, add the vinegar, wine, spices and lemon peel. Put the pears in the water. They should be completely covered so that they can colour evenly. Lower the heat (low but not too low!) and leave to simmer for one hour. Add the sugar and simmer for half to one hour more or until a knife can enter the pears without resistance. Carefully remove the pears (not by the stalk!) and sprinkle them with the lemon juice. If you’re not planning to use them right away, keep them in the fridege, in a closed recipient, in the cooled stewing liquids.

To top the pears, you can reduce a quart of the stewing liquids with the spices and lemon peel into a thick caramelized syrup. Just reduce on high heat for about 15 minutes or until the syrup is thick and coloured. Remove the candied lemon peel and cut it into thin stripes. Use to decorate.

Bon appétit!

Almond tiles
Tuiles aux amandes

makes ~20.
prep: 10 min. cook: 5 min

2 egg whites,
30g butter, melted,
1 full Tsp flour,

2 full Tsp sugar,
a pinch of salt,
30 g of blanched almonds in thin slices
optionnal: a pinch of lavander flowers, crushed

Preheat the oven at 250 deg C. With a wooden spoon mix the eggwhites (not beaten), the flour, sugar, salt and melted butter until smooth. Add the almonds and lavander and toss gently. On a baking tray covered with baking foil (grease the foil with butter if you dont use silicon foil), pour well spaced (~2 fingers) small amounts of dough using a tea spoon. Flatened them slightly with the back of the spoon. Bake for 5 minutes in the warm oven or until the rands of the cookies start to colour (beware: it goes very quickly from golden to black!). Take out of the oven and immediately set the cookies to cool on top of a pastry roll (empty bottles will do to). Once completely cooled, store in air tight tin.

Bon appétit!

I guess I am out of competition for this month in the bag challenge, but anyway, it was fun and it was good!  
For more recipes with pears, lemon and nuts, check out Julia’s A slice of cherry pie next week, I’m sure there will be plenty of tempting recipes (with her delicious pear and cheddar salad to start with)…

 stewed pears

Dutch comfy food for a monthly mingle

January 27th, 2008 § 5 comments § permalink

In the heart of the dutch winter, when it’s freezing cold outside, dark and rainy, when my stomach crave for some comfort food that will warm me up from head to toe… I cook dutch! When it comes to winter comfort food, dutch know their way in the kitchen: steaming hot erwtensoup (pea soup) with smoked sausage, creamy potato hutspot* or stamppot* with chicory or boerenkool, served with meatballs, sausages or bacon and a rich flavoured gravy… Might not sound like michelin star gastronomy to you, but I assure you, once you have tried the real homemade stuff, you’ll ask for more. 

I’ve been willing to post about my weakness for dutch winter food since the beginning of the winter season but didn’t come to it yet. Then last week, I stumbled over the theme of the Monthly Mingle event organised by Meetah from What’s for lunch honey? : comfort food! What a perfect occasion. Further, some days ago,  while having dinner in a dutch “Eetcafé”, I couldn’t help overhearing some expats at a table next to me complaining of the lack of culinary traditions in Holland….

So, to lovely Meetah and to all the too many expats in the Netherlands who cannot stop complaining about the lack of culinary culture in this country… Here’s one of my dutch winter favourite comfort food, the dutch ‘boeuf bourguignon’, the king of dutch stews, the ‘Hachee’.  Lean stewing steak, a lot of shallots and oignons, browned in butter and delicately flavoured with juniper berries, bay leaves and cloves, simmered slowly in a lot of beer until the meat falls apart… Lekker**!

The king of dutch stews

My recipe is probably far from the traditionnal one but has been approved by many dutch so far. It is inspired from my favourite dutch cookbook (in english! …didn’t speak dutch at the time I got it): “Dutch cooking – The new kitchen” from Manon Sikkel and Michiel Klonhammer.
Just like boeuf bourguignon, in private, I love to have my Hachee with macaroni. When I have guests, I’ll serve it with a celeriac mash. Always a success. 

Dutch hash stew – Boeuf mijoté à la hollandaise

serves 6 pers.
prep: 30 min. cook: 2 hrs

1.5 kg lean stewing steak, diced in chunks fom ~3×3 cm
1 handful flour,
60g butter,
200g shallots, peeled and chopped
500g onions, peeled and sliced thinly
500 ml beer,
1 Tsp sugar

2 bay leaves,
3 cloves,
6 juniper berries,
sea salt and pepper to taste,
optionnal: 2 slices of bread generously spread with mustard

Hachee ingredients

Put the pieces of meat in a plastic bac with a handful of flour and shake to coat the meat. Melt the 2 thirds of the butter (40g) in a cocotte or heavy casserole and sear the meat on high heat (proceed in two batches to get the meat nicely brown). Reserve the meat, add the remaining butter and sauteed the onions (reserve ~100 g for later) and shallots over a low to medium heat until transparent. Pour back the meat, season to taste with sea salt and pepper and add the sugar, the cloves, bay leaves and juniper berries. — At that moment, the original recipe calls for two slices of bread crust removed, spread with mustard and added in chunks to the cocotte which should help thicken the stew (use then 750ml beer). Somehow, I have always inadvertantly missed that step without consequences, but will surely try it next time. — Then cover with beer and leave to simmer covered for about 2 hours. Serve hot with macaroni al dente or mashed celeriac or potatoes. 

Eet smakkelijk!
My dutch potato “stampper”

Mashed Celeriac
Purée de Céleri rave

serves 6 pers.
prep: 10 + 5 min. cook: 20 min
1 celeriac (~800g), cleaned, peeled and diced in 2 cm x 2 cm chunks***
4 potatoes (~300g), cleaned, peeled and diced
30g butter,
10cl liquid cream,

1 Tsp coarse sea salt,
pepper to taste,

Put a large amount of water to boil together with 1 Tsp of sea salt. When the water is boiling, add the celeriac and potatoes and cook for 15 to 20 min on medium heat or until the celeriac and potato are tender. Drain. Add half of the liquid cream, slightly warmed,  and mash using a fork or a dutch “stampper”  (don’t blend, the mash should be coarse). Add the butter and eventually add some more liquid cream to adjust the texture to your taste. Season with freshly crushed pepper. Serve hot!
If you wish, the vegetables can be boiled in advance, don’t drain and reserve covered until 15min before serving. Then reheat on low-fire, mash and season at the last moment.

Bon appétit!

* stamppot is a typical winter dutch dish calling for boiled potatoes coarsely mashed with roughly chopped season vegetables (raw or cooked) such as chicory, white loaf, carrots and oignons (this latest version being called hutspot)
** Lekker is dutch for yummy!
***  To avoid browning, keep covered in cold water seasoned with lemon juice

Merry Christmas from Holland!

December 28th, 2007 § 4 comments § permalink

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones!

Sunset in Vondelpark

So far so good for my stressless Christmas… We do not know how to do without stress in the family! No worries, it ended up al well and we all had a great time and the Christmas dinner was a success. I’ll post about it later once I fully recovered from this week.

In the mean time, here’s a few photos from some of my favourite spots in Amsterdam I took after the Christmas eve rush on Christmas day…

Amsterdam1 amsterdam4

Couldn’t get to post the recipe for the cheese sablés before Christmas. Here it is at last! The recipe is based on the recipe for the ‘Goudse Kaasmoppen’ from the famous dutch baker Kees Raat from the book ‘Koekje’. The shortcrust texture of these cheese bites sablés is wonderful and Kees Raat uses Chick pea flour which gives a little nutty something to the taste. As a twist to the recipe I added some spices to the dough: I spiced half of the cookies with crushed pepper and chilipepper and the other half with slightly toasted and roughly crushed cummin seeds… Perfect!

Spicy Goudse Kaasmoppen

Spicy dutch cheese sablés
Petits sablés épicés au gouda

Makes about 40.
prep: 15min +1hr rest. cook: 15 min

160 g dutch gouda cheese,
160 g butter at room temperature,
140 g chickpea flour,

2g sea salt (~1/2 tsp),
pepper, chilipepper, cummin seeds… according to taste

Mix the cheese and butter together. Knead in the chick pea flour, the salt and spices until the dough is homogeneous. Roll the dough into two cilinders of ~2cm diameter en leave to cool in the fridge for at least one hour. Preheat the oven at 170 deg C. Cut the dough in 1cm thick slices and lay them on a baking tray covered with baking foil. Cook for about 15 min at 170 deg C or until golden. Watch out that the cookies do not get brown, they could get bitter. Leave to cool on a rack and store in a metal tin.

Bon appétit!

Speculaas for Sinterklaas

December 5th, 2007 § 2 comments § permalink

Tonight is the night from Sinterklaas,
For you, I have baked some speculaas!

Tonight, all over the Netherlands, everyone is celebrating Sinterklaas, patron saint of all children (Santa’s ‘older brother’). The little ones have put their shoes in front of the chimney awaiting for Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Piet to fill them with presents, while “older children” write funny poems to each other and exchange small surprises. It’s Pakjesavond.

Sinterklaas celebrations are definitely the most popular tradition in the Netherlands. It took me some time to understand the subtilities around Sinterklaas, yet I love him: when he arrives from spain on his steaming boat with his horse and his Zwarte Piets, he brings colour and warmth (and candy, and presents too… ) into the cold dutch winter. It’s the start of the winter celebrations… It’s time to bake cookies, and think about how you will spoil your loved ones.

My present for you tonight are my very first Speculaas… those spicy, crunchy cookies, shaped in wooden molds, typical in the Netherlands and Belgium, and originally baked for Sinterklaas.


I will definitely be baking more of those: I loved making my own spice mix in my stone mortar (though there is a wide choice of pre-made spice mixes ready for use in every shop),  and the kid in me had so much fun playing with the traditional wooden molds, shaping windmills, sailing boats and other hens and squirrels! 
For the recipe, I inspired myself from my new mouthwatering dutch cookies cookbook Koekjes from the famous dutch bakers Cees Holtkamp and Kees Raat  and from the beautiful speculaasjes from the blog Trifles.

making speculaas


Makes ~50.
prep: 15 min (24 hrs ahead) + 1hr to 1h30 min. 
bake: 20 min to 35 min per batch (count 2 to 3 batches)

~For the speculaas spice mix:
6 pods green cardamom,
6 cloves,
4 star anisseeds,
1/4 tsp white pepper corns (~1g),
1/4 tsp coriander seeds (~1g),
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (~1g),
1 tsp ground ginger (~2.5 g),
2.5 tsp ground cinnamon (~6g)
For the dough:
225 g soft butter,
200 g cane sugar,
50 g dark bastard sugar,
50 to 70* g (5 to 7 cl) whipping cream (or buttermilk if you have some),
5 g sea salt,
500 g flour, sieved,
20 g baking powder, sieved,
12g speculaas spice mix, sieved,
flour or rice flour to sprinkle the molds.

For the spices: crush all the seeds and pods thinly in a mortar. Add the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, mix well, take a deep breath to enjoy the fragrances and reserve.

For the dough**:
Beat the softened butter with the sugar and salt. Pour in the cream or buttermilk and mix again until the dough is shiny and homogeneous. Add the sieved flour, baking powder and the spices and kneed into a sort of shortcrust dough. Pack the dough into a plastic bag and forget it in the fridge for 1 or 2 days so that the fragrances can fully develop.

Now’s the fun part:
If you have (wooden) speculaas molds, sprinkle them with flour or rice flour (make sure you spinkle well otherwise you might end up with your dough sticking to the mold which you definitely don’t want to happen). Then press some dough into the mold, cut off the excess dough with a sharp knife, turn the molds around and tap with more or less energy depending on how well you sprinkled the molds and set the shaped dough on a baking tray covered with baking paper.


If you don’t have speculaas molds, you can roll out the dough with a thickness of a few milimeters and cut out square or rectangle shaped cookies (then sprinkle them with chopped almonds if you like). You can also make ‘kruidnootjes’, rolling the dough into little balls, the size of a cherry. Bake in a preheated oven at 150 deg. C for 35 minutes***. Do not worry if the Speculaas do not look golden and if they are not yet hard when you take them out of the oven. They will gain in colour and harden when cooling down. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack and store in air tight cookie tins.

Eet Smakkelijk!****

*  The original recipe mentions 50 g and it’s what I use. However, last time I baked Speculaas, I used flour from the mill, and maybe the absorption is different but the dough was difficult to pack together (the dough sshould be sandy but still) and to shape. In that case, you might want to add a little bit more cream/buttermilk.
**  I’m lazy, so I use my kitchen aid to do all that….
***  After several try outs, here are the cooking times I recommend: When using medium size speculaas molds (about 8cmx5cm), the cookies are usually quite thick (5 to 8 mm), then 35 min is fine; for about 4cmx4cm squares with a thickness of less than 5mm, 20 min. is plenty.
**** Bon appétit!


April 21st, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

I admit it: I am a food obsessed frenchy! If you get me started on food, I can go on for hours. When I visit a country I am always looking forward to taste the local delicacies. And food shopping is always a must. However, since I first set foot in the Netherlands, I have never stopped complaining about the food (for my defence: dutch food is a common source of complaint for most of the foreigners, tourists, expats or immigrants in this country)…. and I think I always will (at least a little).  I remember, during my first few months, eager to discover the dutch gastronomy, I asked my colleagues in vain for a typical dutch restaurant… I was always advised of an indonesian restaurant instead! Then I discovered the company “cantine”: Lunch in holland consists generally of a quick and light meal made of soup, simple sandwiches (boterham) with cheese or ham or sometimes fried snacks (I will surely come back on these very special delicacies called kroketten and frikandellen), and milk (half a liter for the real men!)…. Bye bye warm balanced lunches, and my sacro saint after lunch coffee. Suddenly I was regretting the university restaurant I was making so much fuss against back in France! And here I am complaining again… The intention of this post was actually not to complain about the culinary culture of the Netherlands, on the contrary. I’m over that (or so I thought). In fact, I wanted to start a new category on this blog where I would present you some of my favourite dutch delicacies. And despite my whining in the first lines of this post I have come to love (or at least appreciate) a certain number of dutch specialties that I woul like to share with you dear reader.For all the dutch who once got offended from my food complaints: from oysters and haring to stamppot, koolrabi, old cheese and stroopwafels, here is my mea culpa!

And before we go further, one more thing. If you happen to taste and enjoy one of these dutch delicacies, don’t forget to pronounce the word “lekkkkeeeeer”* as sensually as you can! It will make more than a happy dutchman.

Eet Smakelijk!**

*    Lekker: In english, it would mean something like “delicious”
**  Eet smakelijk! is the dutch for Bon appétit.

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