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Edible travel souvenirs
Wherever we are in the Netherlands, we always make a point of investigating the local cookie specialty. In Friesland, it is one of many variations of Dumkes or "little thumbs", so named because in the past the baker would push the pieces of dough down with his thumb. We ate Dumkes with or without almonds (or sugar) on top. Sometimes the cookies were slightly soft inside, sometimes they were hard and crisp. No matter what version we encountered it was always good. Here is my recipe for the cookie without topping; it is an easy cookie that is delightfully different and tastes great with coffee or tea.
Friese Dumkes (Little Frisian thumbs)
Preparation time: 25 minutes plus 30 minutes refrigeration time
Baking time: 18 - 20 minutes
Baking temperature: 350 F
Yield: 5 dozen
3/4 cup sweet butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon anise, powdered or cracked (see note)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Cream butter and sugar, add egg, combine and then add spices, salt and flour and keep stirring until it forms a cohesive dough. This dough can be made by machine using the dough hook. Divide into 3 parts and make rolls 10 inches long. Press each roll down until it is 2 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick. Decorate the top with a crisscross pattern by cutting lightly into the dough with a knife. Refrigerate for half an hour. Remove and cut into 1/2 inch strips. Place on a lightly buttered baking sheet about one inch apart. Bake 18 - 20 minutes. Remove and cool.
Note: I discovered recently that Penzeys Spices sell whole, cracked or powdered anise seed. For mail order, call 1-(800) 741 7787.
Mushroom Pie without crust
The next recipe for a crustless mushroom pie goes back to the 17th century. My adaptation makes a perfect dish for a light summer lunch. Serve it with a nice, leafy green salad with grape tomatoes, sliced kirby cucumbers, and plenty of chopped chives from the garden. You might even add a naturtium flower or two (be sure they have not been sprayed and rinse each flower carefully). Strawberries marinated in a bit of orange-flavored liqueur make a festive dessert. The quiche also makes an excellent side dish to grilled burgers. Add a cucumber salad with lots of basil, some slices of crusty bread and your menu is complete!
10 ounces white mushrooms, wiped clean; remove stems and chop fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 cup grated Gouda cheese (for best results, use the real thing)
3 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
1 9-inch pie plate
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together chopped mushroom stems, garlic, seasonings, cheese and eggs. Place the mushroom caps in the pie plate in an even layer and pour the egg mixture over the caps. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees and reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 30 minutes, or until set. Cut into wedges and serve.
Vegetable Soup with Small Meatballs
(Groentesoep met Balletjes)
My mother would always make this soup for Sunday dinner. Children love the small meatballs. The soup is best made in two steps.
6-8 cups beef broth
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 slice bread, preferably whole wheat, soaked in 4 tablespoons of milk
2 tablespoons finely minced onions, scallions, or chives
Salt, pepper and nutmeg
1 small egg, or use half of a beaten large egg
Vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, scallions, peas, lima beans, parsley, celery and 1 tomato (tomatoes tend to overpower the soup); cut all vegetables into small pieces (leftover cooked vegetables should be added at the end of the cooking time)
Angel hair or vermicelli pasta
Step One: Bring the broth to a boil. In the meantime, combine beef, bread, which has been squeezed dry, onions, and season with salt, pepper and a few grindings/shakes of nutmeg; add the egg, which has been beaten with a tablespoon of water. Mash the mixture with a fork, or knead with your hand. Form small 3/4 inch balls and drop them into the boiling broth. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove and cool. Refrigerate overnight.
Step Two: Remove and discard any hardened fat from the broth and remove the little meatballs. Set aside. Bring the broth to a boil and add the vegetables. Cook for 10 - 15 minutes until they are done to your liking. Add the meatballs and the pasta. Cook for 1 minute more. If the soup is too thick, simply add some water. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Belgian endives with ham and cheese
(1 or 2 per person, depending on what else you serve)
During the winter, my mother would often make the following dish of Belgian endives with cheese and ham. In the Netherlands no other meat would accompany the dish, but, if you wish to serve more meat, a plain grilled or fried pork chop makes a nice pairing. Serve the endives with boiled potatoes. When they are done, drain, return the pan to high heat and shake it to dry the potatoes, then add some finely chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons of butter and shake the pan again to combine and remove from the heat. Add a side salad of greens with a vinaigrette dressing and/or home-made applesauce with cinnamon for a delicious homey meal.
For each endive you need:
1 1-ounce slice imported Gouda cheese
1 slice of lean ham (cut as for sandwiches)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a shallow oven-proof dish and set aside. Gently boil the endives in lightly salted water for 13 minutes. Drain, but keep the water. Put a slice of cheese about the size of the endive on top of each one and then roll the two carefully in a slice of ham. Put the rolls seam-side down in the prepared dish. Make sure the cheese is on top. Moisten the rolls with a few tablespoons of vegetable water and discard the rest. Bake in the oven to melt the cheese and thoroughly heat through; about 15 minutes.
Oil for frying
1 - 1-1/2 lbs. beef stew cubes (see note)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 large onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup water
Note: Traditionally, this recipe is made with chuck steaks, but over the years I have found that beef stew cubes produce a nicer dish.
In a heavy pan, heat the oil and add the beef cubes in a single layer (depending on the size of the pan you might have to do this in 2 batches). Sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg and add the chopped onion. Brown the cubes on both sides. Repeat with the rest of the meat as necessary. When all cubes are browned add the cloves, bay leaves, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cover the pan tightly. Simmer for 1 - 1-1/2 hours; the meat should be fork-tender. Check every once in a while to make sure it does not cook dry and add a little more water as necessary. Serve as suggested above.
In the course of my research for Childhood Pleasures, I studied various menus, specifically menus from 17th-century orphanages. Frequently a dish called in translation "ground beef with currants" was served. From that listing I devised the following recipe.
Please note: there are 2 very different kinds of currants: one grows on a bush in small clusters of red, white and black round berries and the other is a small dried grape often referred to as Zante currants for the region where they were first grown. You can find those currants in a box on the supermarket shelf next to the raisins. The currants give a nice tangy flavor to the meatballs.
Meatballs with currants
1 pound ground beef
2 slices whole grain bread soaked in milk and squeezed dry
3 tablespoons finely minced onion
1/2 cup or more currants
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Oil for frying.
In a large bowl thoroughly combine all ingredients, divide into 6 parts and form into 6 meatballs. In a large frying pan heat the oil and brown the meatballs on one side. Use two spoons to turn them and brown the other side. Add some water to the pan, cover and reduce heat. Braise the meatballs for about 15 minutes until cooked through. Red cabbage, green beans or carrots make nice accompaniments.
Salads, Vegetables, Fruits:
Beligan Endive Salad with Orange
(Brussels lof salade met sinaasappel)
The following recipe was given to me by our Dutch hostess Jannie Visser of Zevenhuizen. It is an easy salad, which can be made ahead.
3 Belgian endives, washed
1/3 cup vinegar, preferably white Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Half a ripe banana
Sugar, salt, and freshly ground pepper
Cut a thin slice from the ends of the endives and cut them into three-quarter inch pieces.
Peel the orange and cut between the segments to eliminate the skins. Cut each segment in half. In a medium bowl, mix endive and orange pieces including any juice resulting from cutting the oranges. In a small bowl, mash the banana half and compbine with the vinegar and oil. Season the dressing with a small teaspoon of sugar, salt and pepper. Pour onto the endive mixture and combine thoroughly. Serve, or keep refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
Dutch food is at its best with the warming, winter dishes. One of my favorite meals is called "rode kool met runderlapjes," it consists of red cabbage served with braised beef (I use stew beef cubes) and accompanied by mashed potatoes and apple sauce.
The red cabbage is cooked with apples and spiced with cloves and bay leaves. Some sugar and vinegar are added to give it a sweet-sour flavor. The braised beef is seasoned with the same spices and nutmeg. It is so simple and yet so good and all of it can be made ahead! I often serve this little menu as an easy winter meal when friends come over. A cornstarch pudding and fruit compote, or baked apples make a nice dessert.
1-1/2 lbs. red cabbage, washed and finely chopped
5 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 cup water
2 large apples, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vinegar
3 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with 4 tablespoons water
In a large saucepan, combine the cabbage, cloves, bay leaves and the water, place the apple pieces on top. Bring to a boil, cover the pan and simmer for about half hour. Stir occasionally and check that the cabbage does not boil dry. When the cabbage is tender, mash the apples into it and stir. Discard the bay leaves and cloves as you come across them. Add the butter, if used, and the salt, vinegar and sugar. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Add the cornstarch mixture and sitr. Allow to cook for a minute or two more and serve.
Here is another way to use oranges. The recipe is based on a mention of such a dish I found in a 19th-century menu. I liked the idea of cooked oranges and put together the following recipe.
3 navel oranges, peeled and broken in half
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 2 more navel oranges
Generous pinch each of ground cloves and nutmeg
Place the 6 orange halves in a pan large enough to hold them in one layer. Sprinkle with zest and spices. Pour on the juice and place the pan on low heat. Cover and gently cook for 30 minutes. Remove from heat; cool and serve. It is a very nice side-dish for poultry, ham or pork chops.
A cookie recipe for the holidays. Any holiday (even if you have to make one up) is an occasion to make Jan Hagel, a wonderful, simple cookie that tastes great!
(Cinnamon Almond Cookies)
(The name means something like John Hail in Dutch, for the coarse sugar that is traditionally sprinkled on top, but I like the cookie even better topped with sliced almonds and cinnamon sugar.)
14 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
1 large egg, beaten lightly with a fork
2-1/3 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In an electric mixer cream the butter with the brown sugar, the zest and 1 tablespoon of the egg until the mixture is light and fluffy; then stir in the flour. On a lightly buttered baking sheet with a rim pat the dough into a 14 x 10 inch rectangle, brush it with the remaining egg, and sprinkle it evenly with the almonds. In a small bowl stir together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the almonds. Bake the pastry in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is golden and while still hot cut it into 2 x 1 inch cookies. Transfer them to a rack and let them cool. Makes 50.
My husband Don and I are very fond of rice pudding. We have our favorite local addresses for the dessert, but then I found the following unusual rice pudding recipe with apples and currants in a little booklet on "Old Dutch Party Dishes." The pudding is cooked in wine and heavy cream can be passed at the table and poured on as considered necessary. Here is my translation/adaptation.
Dutch rice pudding with apples and currants
1-1/2 scant cups short grain rice
1 pound sour apples (Granny Smith), peeled and chopped
1/2 cup currants
2-1/2 - 3 cups white wine, or more as needed
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar or a little more
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Heavy cream or half and half
In a large saucepan combine the rice, apples, currants and white wine
and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover the pan and allow the mixture
to simmer for 45 minutes. Check frequently to make sure it does not cook
dry and add more wine as necessary. Remove the pan from the heat and add
butter, sugar and cinnamon. Taste and add more sugar as you feel is necessary.
Pass the heavy cream or half and half at the table
Spiced Sweet Bread
This sweet bread is very similar in taste to those made in the Dutch town of Deventer. It is delicious slathered with butter. An ideal take-along for a pot luck or a coffee hour.
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Slowly add the milk and stir to make a dough without lumps. Transfer to a greased 8 x 5 x 23/4 inch loaf pan and bake for about one hour, or until a knife inserted comes out clean and the loaf is a deep-brown. Cool. This is a dense loaf that keeps very well and improves in flavor and texture when stored in an airtight container for a few days.