Dutch cuisine consists of hearty fare that is warming and wholesome, something that the locals greatly appreciate on account of the cold temperatures. Today we’re taking a look at some of the dishes you should try if you’re living in the Netherlands.Erwtensoep
This thick pea soup constitutes a meal in itself. Made from dried and split green peas, it is often eaten with rye bread or roggebrood, and topped with Dutch smoked bacon (katenspek), butter and cheese. The recipe also calls for slices of smoked sausage, called rookworst. The soup also has other vegetables such as celery, carrots, leeks and potatoes. It is a New Year’s Day tradition to eat erwtensoep, but its also prepared on days when the temperature drops. It is sometimes served as an appetizer. It is especially popular with ice skaters due to its warming qualities. Erwtensoep is also called snert, and it can be made thinner by adding more stock.
The meat from the soup may be added to the rye bread along with some mustard. The soup is prepared in larger quantities and consumed later, as once cooled, the soup stays fresh for a number of days. It is the assorted vegetables that are added which makes the soup so thick. The traditional recipe of erwtensoep calls for only celery, split peas and leeks. But potatoes may be added to thicken the soup. It is traditional to eat dessert crepes after the pea soup; a practice that is also prevalent in Scandinavia, mainly in Sweden, where pea soup is made on Thursdays.
A snack made from meat, either beef or veal, Bitterballen is similar to kroketten, the Dutch variant of which employs the same ingredients, flavors and cooking methods. However, kroketten are distinctly oblong in shape and eaten as a sandwich in a soft bun. The beef or veal is either chopped or minced and mixed with other ingredients such as beef broth, flour, parsley, salt and paper, after which it forms a thick roux. Most traditional recipes also include nutmeg, while variants include chopped vegetables and even curry powder.
Once the ingredients are combined, the dish is refrigerated in order for it to turn into a firm consistency. It is then rolled into balls, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and deep-fried, and served with mustard for dipping. The breadcrumbs give the dish its characteristic crisp exterior, while the filling of meat inside is thick and gooey. Bitterballen is often an accompaniment to beer, and can be found on the menu in most cafés. There are also recipes for a vegetarian version of the dish, while there are some that add goat cheese or truffle.
A type of Dutch sausage, Rookworst is made from ground meat with spices and salt. The sausage casing used to be made of natural gut membranes, but today it made of bovine collagen. Although it is called smoked sausage, the commercially available rookworst today is not smoked at all, but rather has smoke aromatics added, which give it its characteristic flavor. However, traditionally it was smoked over smoldering woodchips.
Rookworst is a classic ingredient in stamppot, a traditional Dutch dish made from mashed potatoes and vegetables or fruit. Rookworst comes in two varieties, a cooked and packaged sausage that is also known as Gelderse rookworst; and raw rookworst, which needs to be prepared the right way as it contains raw meats. The packed rookworst only needs to be re-heated in boiling water before serving, while raw rookworst is most commonly prepared by simmering it.
Stroopwafels, or syrup waffles, are a type of waffle made from a couple of thin layers of baked dough with a filling of caramel-like syrup. It was first made in the city of Gouda during the 18th century, and is now popular across the Netherlands. The oldest known recipe for Stroopwafels dates back to 1840. There were only about 100 bakers in Gouda that made these waffles. It was towards the 1870s when they began to be made outside of the city, and by the 20th century stroopwafels were being made in factories.
Deliciously chewy, this sweet treat can be found in most grocery stores. It is also available fresh at street stands at markets and festivals. Stroopwafels are usually served along with cup of tea or coffee. These Dutch cookies come in different sizes, but the most common size is that of the lid of a cup of hot beverage. When placed on top of the steaming cup, the dough softens and melts the syrup inside, thus turning it into a delicious snack or dessert. It originated as a poor man’s cookie as the recipe was quite basic and flour, eggs, sugar, butter, milk and cinnamon were the only ingredients required. The batter is pressed on a waffle iron and the gluey sugar syrup is slathered over it. Today, each baker is likely to have his or her own recipe for stroopwafels.
Hollandse Nieuwe Haring
Hollandse nieuwe refers to the season’s first herring, which starts appearing during the beginning of June. The herring is almost a culinary icon and a beloved ingredient of the Dutch. Only herring that is caught between the months of May and July can be called Hollandse nieuwe. According to age-old practice, Hollandse nieuwe is also herring which contains a minimum of 16 percent fat and is caught in the traditional manner. Such herring is cleaned on the fishing boats and the pancreas is left in place, the enzymes of which help in conservation, so that the brine in which the herring is stored requires a smaller amount of salt.
Hollandse nieuwe haring is a deeply traditional food and expats must try this local delicacy when living in the Netherlands. The herring is usually served with chopped onions. It is sometimes eaten with bread. There is also apparently a typical way to eat this dish, which involves holding it by the tail and dunking it into the mouth while throwing one’s head back. A more appetizing way, perhaps, may be to eat it in smaller pieces or as part of a sandwich known as broodje haring, which is found at most street stands.
Goudse Kaas or Gouda cheese is among the most commonly eaten cheeses in the world. The cheese is named after the city of Gouda but is not actually produced there. The name comes from the fact that the farmers brought their cheese to Gouda city to sell. Nearly 60 percent of Dutch cheese comes from this city. The cheese market in Gouda is worth a visit and quite an adventure in itself. Held every week on Thursday mornings, between April and August, cheese wheels are traded in the traditional way, where the farmers and traders ‘clap hands’ to imply a confirmed sale. It is a traditionally Dutch food, but it is made across the world. It is a common feature in most households and restaurants in the Netherlands.
There are different varieties of the cheese based on the duration of aging. Younger cheeses are sometimes added to sandwiches, while the older ones are served as an accompaniment to drinks. The cheeses complement beverages such as wine and beer.
The Dutch version of a milk coffee or café au lait, koffie verkeerd is traditionally served with a lot of milk. But today it is more commonly had as an espresso with steamed milk and foam. The name actually translates to ‘wrong coffee’ since regular coffee contains a smaller amount of milk, while in koffie verkeerd the milk is nearly in equal proportion to the coffee. It is had during breakfast or in the afternoons. It is the Dutch way to serve a small cookie or a piece of chocolate along with the coffee. Koffie verkeerd is on the menu in almost every restaurant or café in the Netherlands. Coffee drinking has been enjoyed as a Dutch tradition for many years, and public coffee houses have been part of the country since the early 17th century.
Made from buckwheat flour and yeast, poffertjes look like little fluffy pancakes and are cooked in a special pan with shallow indentations on the bottom to keep the batter in place. This helps to create small puffed pancakes. The poffertjes are then sprinkled with powdered sugar after adding a dollop of butter on the top. Traditionally eaten during fall and winter, street stands selling poffertjes spring up during this time and it is possible to catch a quick bite of poffertjes at almost every street corner and outdoor market where they are served in paper plates with a small fork for spreading the butter and eating.
Poffertjes may be eaten with a variety of different toppings such as syrup, strawberries or whipped cream. They are a firm fixture in celebrations and national holidays. They are also a popular buy during the Christmas and New Year season, where they are sold at Christmas markets. Dutch settlers brought poffertjes, and the dimpled pan in which they are prepared, to America.
Chocoladeletters, or chocolate letters, are a Dutch candy made in the form of different letters of the alphabet. Especially prepared during the Dutch holiday of Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas, this fun candy began as a tradition in the Middle Ages when bread dough was used to make letters for children. It continued down the centuries and since the 19th century, chocolate has been used to make the shapes. It is traditional to present people with the letters of their initials during Sinterklaas.
Chocoladeletters come in a variety of sizes, types and flavors. The thickness of the letters varies as the same amount of chocolate is used for every letter; this way all the letters contain an equal amount of chocolate. Chocoladeletters are available in milk, white and dark chocolate, and really easy to make since it involves pouring melted chocolate of your choice into letter molds. The chocolate letters may then be decorated with icing or rose petals.
The classic and beloved Dutch specialty, stamppot, is believed to be the oldest of all Dutch dishes, and yet still retains its popularity even today. A perfect meal for a cold, wet evening in the Netherlands, the stamppot is known to hit the spot every time. Extremely common during the winters, the dish is made by mashing boiled potatoes together, along with a variety of vegetables such as kale or endive, and served with the Dutch smoked sausage, rookworst.
The hutspot is the most traditional stamppot dish and can be loosely translated as ‘hopscotch’; it is made from potato, onion and carrots, and often served with klapstuk, or braised beef. The history of hutspot dates back to 1574, during the Eighty Years’ War, when the people of Leiden celebrated their victory. The legend has it that when the Spanish invaders vacated the land, they left behind a couple of pots of vegetable stew (which contained parsnips back then), which was relished by the starving locals. Stamppot is a nourishing dish, which is usually made in large quantities but served at once, as reheating tends to dry out the dish.