Holland – Five Things You Have To Eat

Cheese

I have waxed lyrical about Dutch cheese in a previous article, so to prevent a repetition, try these on your next trip.

Comissie Kaas (Wholesale cheese)
A large round cheese, similar in taste to Edam but oh so different – a must try
Maasdammer aka Leerdammer
A taste of smooth Gouda with an Emmentaler aroma, ripened for about 5 weeks with cherry sized holes & nutty taste. We probably all know it, but the ones in Holland are so much better.
Friese Nagel Kaas (Fresian Clove Cheese)
Spiced with caraway and cloves, ripened for 3 months, spicily different in an Eastern sense, so try and then comment. I adore this cheese.
Kernhemmer Kaas (Kernheimer)
A semi-hard cutting cheese with a 60% fat content, orange rind & the creamiest, dreamiest taste
Mon Chou (Dutch white mould cheese)
Soft cheese, covered with a thin layer of mould – the Dutch variation on the French Neuchâtel – a hard smooth consistency but too heavenly to miss.

Dutch Pancakes

Dutch pancakes are not only legendary they are absolutely delicious and it would be crazy to miss trying them. If you haven’t, remember that one finds them all over Holland in any Pannekoekenhuis – they’re huge, at least the size of the plate. A Pannekoekenhuis is easy to find – just follow the aroma. My favourites are the basic Pannekoek with strawberries, the Spekpannekoek which is made with crispy bacon, the Strooppannekoek with coils of golden yet translucent syrup, the Appelpannekoek superbly made whilst simultaneously cooking the apple and lemon juice with the pancake and the Gemberpannekoek which is enriched with preserved ginger. Nobody, but nobody can make this pancake taste better than the Dutch! They have a feel for preserved ginger and if you’re lucky enough to be there in the icy winter, do try one first!

Genever

I will probably want to chop my hand off for including this, but it would be crazy to exclude Genever.
It is Holland’s national drink and was developed around 1600 by a professor from Leyden, Franzikus de Bove. After a long Spanish occupation, the Dutch had simply had enough of being downtrodden and started taking up their rightful place in the world with the assistance of their powerful shipping fleets. Trade became extremely profitable and their wealth grew exponentially, but the unhealthy wealthy living was taking it’s toll and to cut a long story short, de Bove developed a digestive schnapps from barley, rye, corn and juniper berries which he called Genièvre (French for ‘juniper’) which then became Jenever and is now called Genever.  Nowadays the corn flavour is much stronger than the juniper flavour. Always remember that the difference between jonge Genever and oude Genever has absolutely nothing to do with the age, only with the method of distillation.

Licorice

The Dutch eat more licorice (drop) than any other nation in the world –  about 30,000 tons every year. Licorice is made from the extract of the licorice root, thickened with starches, sweetened with glucose and honey and flavoured with menthol, anise and eucalyptus. I love licorice and have been chewing on it since my father taught me, at age six, to eat the soft, aromatic strips that we could buy locally. We had it with chocolate. In those days we bought the waxy licorice in brown paper packets at a little shop called the Bee Hive.  It was nothing like the Dutch licorice – something I discovered with glee when I went to Holland later in life.

Mussels

Anyone going to Holland simply has to try a portion of these – you’ll never get a farmed mussel so fresh or tasty! I am particularly partial to Dutch sea food since it always seems to taste better and different in Holland – probably thanks to their no nonsense approach and because they’re just so close to the North Sea that they understand their product so well.

The Dutch farm mussels on the sea floor and they harvest about 100,000 tons annually.  This is exported to France, Belgium and Germany. The centre of production at Yerseke is at the mouth of the River Schelde. They have the most progressive mussel farms in the world and contrary to popular belief, you can buy outstanding mussels here – simply because the darned things are so fresh.

These two recipes can be made quite easily – so typical of the Dutch cuisine.

Mosselen in Witte Wijn

2 kg mussels, properly cleaned, washed and “beards” scrupulously removed and all opened ones tossed away
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
¼ celeriac, peeled and chopped
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
150 g butter
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
crushed black peppercorns to taste
1 cup good dry wine – they use a lot of French wine, so try and do that as well

Melt butter in a large pot and braise all the chopped vegetables lightly, add the parsley, garlic, bayleaf and peppercorns whilst stirring constantly.
Pour in the with white wine and add the mussels
Cover and cook over high heat until the mussels open
Remove the pot from the stove and serve all the mussels from that pot with plenty of crispy white bread

Basic pancake recipe

200 g flour
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
2 eggs
Mineral water, cold
Butter

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.
Whisk the eggs until they are smooth and mix them into the flour.
Add water and mix until it forms a thick batter.
Heat butter in a skillet on a warm plate, spoon in a sufficient quantity of batter and fry until golden.

Serve as you wish, but they are really good with a good cup of coffee.

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