Tag Archives: Netherlands

Dutch Oliebollen for The New Year

Over the years we have discovered that one of the most universally beloved foods is the fried dough ball. In the Netherlands, fried dough balls are a traditional New Year’s food called Oliebollen (which translates to “oil balls” – the singular is oliebol). They have been variously known in the US as “Dutch doughnuts” and are called smoutebollen and croustillons in Belgium. Oliebollen have a long history in the Netherlands and were part of Germanic Yule celebrations, and the first written recipes date from the 1660s. The painting below, “Meid met oliebollen,” by Aelbert Cuyp is from 1652.

The legend behind Oliebollen is actually more morbid than I was expecting. According to Paste Magazine:

Eating oliebollen was considered a surefire way to ward off the whims of a cruel pagan goddess named Perchta. Her Teutonic name meant bright or glorious, but she was not always friendly. During the 12 Days of Christmas the goddess was said to fly around with evil spirits looking for something to eat. In her quest she might even use her sword to slice open the stomachs of those who’d already eaten to get at their food. Tradition said that eating oliebollen protected you because the fat absorbed from the cooking oil made Perchta’s sword slide off of her victims.

Oliebollen doesn’t stick to its fearsome origins anymore, and is mostly sold on the streets, accompanied by fireworks! There are tons of recipes for Oliebollen online including The Dutch Baker’s Daughter, Allrecipes and The Dutch Table.

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Pastry Post-Doc: Dutch Taai-taai cookies for St. Nicholas Day

Netherlands flagOne of the most recognizable Dutch cookies is speculaas – and we are definitely fans of these cinnamon and nutmeg spiced cookies. Speculaas are particularly popular in the Netherlands around St. Nicholas’ Day/Sinterklaas, which falls on December 6th, but so is another lesser known cookie to Americans – the Taai Taai. Taai Taai are Dutch anise-spiced cookies, similar in flavor to speculaas, but with more of a cake-like texture. The name “Taai” comes from the Dutch word for “tough,” and was given due to the chewy texture of the cookie. Taai taai are popularly made in molds in the shape of people, especially in the shape of St. Nicholas himself. Even if you don’t have the molds, Taai Taai cookies are easy to make, and for a shortcut, you can buy pre-mixed spice. Here are a few Taai-Taai recipes from Dutchie Baking, Honest Cooking and the Dutch Table.

taaitaai

Taai Taai Cookies by Turku Gingerbread

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Dutch Indonesian Fusion at De Quay

Indonesia_flag_largeNetherlands flagDe Quay (2470 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614)  has been on many shortlists as one of the top new Chicago restaurants of the last year. Moreover, De Quay has been on our shortlist for its unique combination of the cuisine of the Netherlands and Indonesia (which was once a Dutch colony). Now that we don’t live in Chicago anymore, we have had to cram in as many restaurants as possible on each trip, and De Quay was at the top of our list. At the height of Restaurant Week, we managed to squeeze in a last-minute seating at the bar after striking out on table reservations: one of the best decisions we have made recently!

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Pfeffernüsse / Pepernoden for St. Nicholas Day, Sinterklaas/Nikolaustag

germanyNetherlands flagIt’s a rule – there is nothing we like more than baking treats for any associated holiday, American and international alike. St. Nicholas Day is coming up soon – December 6th, and in some European countries, it is a HUGE holiday complete with feasts, cookies, and having St. Nicholas fill your shoes with candy. One of the St. Nicholas Day treats that has traversed many borders and become something of a holiday staple is the German Pfeffernüsse cookie (which literally translates to “pepper nut”) which show up all around Central and Northern Europe this time of year. Similar cookies are called Pepernoden in the Netherlands and Pebernodder in Sweden. We even found a Swiss version of Pfeffernüsse in New Glarus, Wisconsin (see below). Pfeffernüsse are super easy to make and have a spiced, gingerbread-like flavor, sometimes coated in powdered sugar or glazed. The Austin Statesman has an interesting story about unearthing a heritage family Pfeffernüsse recipe and Saveur has a recipe that includes a rum glaze. We even saw a version at Trader Joe’s in the holiday special section, if you’re looking for an extra-quick treat.

SwissCookie

Pfeffernusse in New Glarus, Wisconsin

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Exploring the Camden Lock Global Food Market

united_kingdom Many visitors to London, so we are told, cap their trip with a leisurely boat ride along the Thames – a journey which, surely, will take you to some fine culinary destinations. But – and this knowledge is thanks to a trip from our well-traveled friend Robin – London also possesses a series of small navigable canals in the central and northern parts of the city. You can ride, as we did, a British longboat from the back of Paddington Station to the Camden Lock, a leisurely ride through London’s “Little Venice” that took us by grand estates, leafy parks and an assortment of floating homes and cafes. And, prize of prizes, the boat will drop you off at what may be one of our favorite food markets ever: Camden Lock Market.

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Camden Lock Market is large, with a wide range of stores, restaurants, and shops that can get very crowded and touristy. But at this end, nearest to the boat dock, you find “Global Kitchen,” which features a plethora of appealing and appetizing food stalls around a gridded series of walkways. Even at the odd hour of 3 pm, this place was jam packed (the market is open 10am-6pm most days). Our first reaction? Overwhelming. It took half an hour just to find all the options available: Japanese noodles, Argentine grilled meats, Peruvian snacks, West African meals, kielbasa, vegan wraps, paella, cookies, piadina, and more. Everything- and we mean everything- looked good!???????????????????????????????

Choices, choices. L finally opted for South African bunny chow at Boerie en Bunny (£5.5). Operated by a woman who wins the award for genuinely nicest person we have ever met, Boerie en Bunny serves South African curries and fish stews over your choice of rice or “Bunny Chow” – a hollowed out roll (bun – get it?), stuffed with your order. We went with a rich and deeply flavorful spicy goat curry, topped with yogurt and fresh cilantro – a choice that was only made after our amiable friend forced us to try all the options she had available, and then asked us to stay just to taste a her seafood stew (fantastic, and very reminiscent of a Brazilian moqueca).

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Next, we opted to reminisce about our 2011 Istanbul trip with a Turkish lahmacun at Istanbul lahmacun (£5), a pizza-esque dish topped with ground lamb. Lahmacun are a very popular street snack in Istanbul, and we had the good fortune to try a few while were there. The stall owner, from Istanbul herself (authenticity points!) was very happy to learn we enjoyed her hometown, and eager to talk about her life experiences and food in London. The good food matched the owner’s ambiability: our lahmacun was huge, covered in ground lamb, yogurt and veggies, which made for a filling and delicious main course.

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Finally, for dessert we had one dozen Dutch poffertjes (aka “Dutch Pancakes”; £3.5) from a stall of the same name. These little puffs have the appearance of mini dough UFOs or slightly flattened donut holes. The gentleman manning the stall (see photo below) was a complete pro: flipping the poffertjes in the special pan at a lightning speed with a pair of chopsticks. Of course we could not resist topping them with Nutella.

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We ate a lot of street food in London, but the Camden Lock Market was our hands-down favorite! If you are looking for cheap, good food in London you absolutely must go. You can get there by tube, but the boat is even more fun.

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A taste of the Netherlands in Iowa: The Dutch Letter

Netherlands flagWe recently read a New York Times “Frugal Traveler” article about a road trip in the heart of America in a dirction less traveled: Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Fargo, North Dakota. Along the way, the author encounters lots of interesting characters and foods, one among them being the iconic Dutch Letter pastry in Iowa. In the US, the pastry is found only in Iowa, around the towns of Pella and Orange City, thanks to Dutch immigration to the area in the mid-to-late 1800s (Orange City was actually founded by settlers from Pella). Jaarsma’s Bakery and Vander Ploeg Bakery, both in Pella, are particularly well-known for their Dutch Letters.

Dutch Letters in Pella Iowa

Dutch Letters in Pella, Iowa by Andy Langager

The sweet butter pastry is usually shaped like an “S” hence the “letter” part of the name, and it is filled with almond paste (though it can be made into other letters as well). Pastries in the shape of letters were noted in historical Dutch paintings, and the pastry in “stick” form are called banket, which are found throughout Holland (in letter form they are called letterbanket in Dutch). The pastry is traditionally consumed around the Christmas holidays, both in the US and abroad, especially the day before St. Nicholas’ Day, December 6th. Saveur has a recipe to make Dutch letters for yourself, and here’s a recipe from Pella Iowa in 1937.

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Traditional Dutch celebration foods for Sinterklaas

Netherlands flagThough in the USA, Santa Claus is the symbol of the holiday season, in Europe it is St. Nicholas that children wait up for on December 5th. Sint Nikolaas, in Dutch, is then typically known as Sinterklaas, and is considered the precursor to the American concept of Santa. The figure of Sinterklaas is indeed similar to Santa, a benevolent figure wearing a red robe and delivering presents to children, though he rides a horse on his journey from house to house. Kids, instead of leaving milk and cookies, leave carrots for the horse beside their shoes (which is where the presents get delivered – if you are naughty you will be left with an empty shoe).

Sweets abound at Sinterklaas celebrations both on the 5th and 6th, including one of our favorites, the crisp, cinnamon speculaas cookies. Other sweet treats include pepernoten (same as German pfeffernüsse) and kruidnoten, similar to speculaas, but in more of a nugget shape.  Many Dutch recipes instruct you to make kruidnoten with pre-blended “speculaas spice” which is definitely not available in the USA. However, to make your own, the Dutch Baker’s Daughter has a good DiY speculaas spice breakdown. Another food tradition is getting a large chocolate letter representing your first name called a chocoladeletter. Sinterklaas is definitely a day with tradition – many of the festive occurrences in this 17th century painting by Jan Steen (note the empty shoe) remain unchanged today.

Jan Steen - Het Sint Nicolaasfeest

Jan Steen – Het Sint Nicolaasfeest / Festival of St. Nicholas

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A World of Popovers: Poffertjes, Aebelskivers and Paniyaram

India FlagWhen we discovered Eggettes, a Hong Kong sweet we profiled previously, little did we know that there were similar popover confections present around the world (though we should have guessed). Ranging from India to Denmark, all of these treats are made in special pans with round indentations (as can be seen above). First up are poffertjes, mini-pancakes made with buckwheat flour that originated in the Netherlands in the 15th century. Kitchen butterfly has a recipe for poffertjes from Dutch Cooking Today (Kook ook Holland).

Aebelskivers

Aebelskivers in a pan.

Similar to poffertjes are ebelskivers / abelskivers / aebelskivers from Denmark, not surprising, given the proximity of the two countries. The recipes are quite similar, but an aebelskiver (or their pan, rather) is larger. For those ready to commit to the recipes: Fante’s Kitchen Shop in Philadelphia has both poffertje and aebelskiver pans, as does William-Sonoma. Also falling into this small-popover milieu are Paniyaram (seen above), an Indian snack that can be made sweet or savory. We think this serves as evidence that some things – like bite-sized carb-y snacks – are universal.

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[Philly Trip] Netherlands 1: Maoz

Netherlands flagMaoz
1115 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA

This post about my favorite Amsterdam-based falafel chain has been a long time coming. I [L] first ate at Maoz several years ago in Philadelphia, at the time their only US location (2nd and South Street). I introduced M to the original Philly Maoz, if I recall, after we saw a late-night showing of Brokeback Mountain. My travels have since taken me to the Maoz in Paris, and all three Maoz in Barcelona. The Paris Maoz, pictured at right, was by far the worst Maoz of the bunch. The fries were soggy beyond belief. Maoz’ delicious Belgian fries are half the draw, so that ruined it for me, though eating our takeout at the Square du Vert-Galant helped fix everything. The three Barcelona Maoz, all located in the Barri Gotic were excellent, and I assume, owned by the same people. However, the Philly Maoz holds a special place in my heart, so when I heard there was ANOTHER Maoz open in Philly, I had to go on my next trip.

MaozFirst off, this 2nd Philly store is huge by Maoz standards, usually Maoz are only walk-up counters with maybe a bar stool or two. However, this brand-spanking-new Maoz has a nice big areas of wooden tables and benches. Notably the entire restaurant, tip to toe, was covered in shiny lime green tiles. Beware, epileptics, I’m talking lime green everywhere. You can make out the tiles in this photo my friend Dan snapped of the Philly Maoz (My camera died a horrible sputtering death on this tip to Philadelphia, so all of my photos come from my archives or friends).

Onto the food- your main and only choice is falafel, which Maoz does very well. The primary decision is if you want a whole pita (white or wheat), a half pita or a salad with falafel. I usually order a junior meal ($6.75) which is a half pita with falafel, an order of fries and a soft drink. Maoz falafel is Israeli-style, which apparently means that you then build your sandwich with lots of condiments. At Maoz there is indeed a nice salad bar of fixings, including couscous, eggplant, tomatoes, pickled carrots, spicy peppers and more. At the end of the salad bar are squeeze bottles of assorted sauces, including mango curry, tahini, garlic mayo and tzatziki.

The other attraction are the crispy-delicious, thick-cut Belgian fries, which come in a paper triangle covered in foil. The fries at right are a lovely sample from Barcelona, but the Philly Maoz fries were even better. These are an awesome snack, and are great accompanied with the garlic mayo. An interesting added feature of this new Maoz is fresh-squeezed juice. However, I prefer to get whatever exotic Israeli sodas they have in the cooler.

I would definitely recommend Maoz to falafel lovers, or to French-fry lovers. You will not be disappointed, and your delicious and filling meal will not break the bank. Apparently there is a NYC outpost now, as well. Hopefully they will make it out to Chicago, soon.

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