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Hearty and warm, Dutch dishes are ideal for frigid temperatures, and while the number of authentic Dutch restaurants have grown in recent years, the cuisine is still considered best when home-cooked.
The ultimate Dutch winter food is of course stamppot (hotchpotch). A rather easy dish to prepare, stamppot consists of mashed potatoes mixed with either raw or cooked vegetables and (not necessarily) meat. There are several variations — most common are endive, hutspot (carrots with onions), sauerkraut and cabbage.
Many times stamppot is eaten with rookworst (Dutch smoked sausage) and/or fried bacon on the side.
There are also some typical Dutch winter soups. Beans have lost their popularity in the last two decades, so the well-known bruinebonensoep (brown bean soup) is no longer often prepared at home.
Far more popular is erwtensoep (pea soup). Depending on the weather, stamppot and winter soups are eaten from fall to the beginning of spring. It is commonly believed that a bowl of erwtensoep tastes better when it’s freezing outside. Which may be true, as in winter it is often served at outdoor activities.
All you ever wanted to know about stamppot
The best-known stamppot is stamppot boerenkool (kale or farmer‘s cabbage). This is also a strictly cold weather dish, as boerenkool leaves are best frosted — the cold softens the leaves thus improving their taste.
Most Dutch buy their boerenkool at the supermarket in neatly packaged plastic bags, however if you are keen on finding the freshest kale you can try a local farmers market or a health food store.
Kale is a primitive version of cabbage and whether it is red, green or white, it’s certainly not the world’s most elegant vegetable. Still, there's something about the taste of kale that made it become a national dish in three different countries. But whereas the Brazilians are very proud of their Couve Minera (kale in the style of Minias Gerais) and most Portuguese love to chat about the taste of a plate of Caldo Verde (Portuguese kale-potato soup), it will be very hard to find a Dutch citizen boasting about ‘stamppot boerenkool’.
Although most Dutch know how they like their food, few think their cuisine is worth talking about. The Dutch rather talk about soccer, the weather, work and leave the food talking to the Italians, Spanish and French.
The preparation of boerenkool is always more or less the same, but how boerenkool is eaten varies a lot in different parts of the Netherlands. There are people that like to eat boerenkool with steak, others prefer a fried sausage and still others serve it with meatballs.
Many times gherkins and/or yellow ‘Amsterdamse’ uien (onions) are served on the side. Because sour combines so well with boerenkool a dash of vinegar is a well-known addition. Nowadays one can also find nuts, little pieces of cheese, duck and even olive oil inside the boerenkool. There’s even a boerenkool-lasagne.
I like my boerenkool green, rather too little potatoes than too little boerenkool. I also like to eat it with a spoon of vinegar and mustard is a must for the rookworst.
Shopping list in Dutch:
1 kilo kruimige aardappels, 600 gram gesneden boerenkool, 200 gram gerookte spekblokjes,
2 rookworsten, boter, melk
Peel potatoes cut them in half and place them with the boerenkool in about 5 dl of water and a teaspoon of salt in a pot. Put rookworst on top and close the pot.
Bring to a boil and cook everything for about 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile in a spoon of butter fry the bacon on slow heat.
Remove the rookworst and liquid from the pot (do not throw it away!). Heat half a cup of milk (microwave). Add the milk and a spoon of butter, mash boerenkool and potatos until all vegetables are mixed. Stir in fried bacon.
Serve with the rookworst.
Restaurants that promote local products and culinary traditions can be found at www.euro-toques.nl
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