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Ah, the world of stamppot.  You may have dipped your foodie toes into this dish by means of a shepherd’s pie, but alas over here in the Netherlands it is the dish of all dishes.  As a foreigner one might ask – what is the cuisine of the Dutch?  If you walk the streets you will see that for restaurants they mostly eat foreign.  I asked my uncle-in-law once when he was touring me around Groningen, what traditional Dutch food was?  He quickly ushered me to a nearby herring stand and bade me to try it in true Dutch style.  Here I am, trying to do it right.

But what else is there?  I have introduced you to the mini meatballs in soup, pastries filled with almond paste, dutch appeltaart, but here is a real secret.  I call it a secret because it is mainly only made in the home.  It’s stamppot.  There are tons of varieties, so you will see a few on here in the future.  I had to make it “kale-style” before my hubby would marry me (just kidding, but it helped!).  It’s the kind of dish that you associate with your mom’s cooking, cold days and winter, basically the perfect comfort food.

The dutch love their potatoes and that is the base of this dish.  Mash any type of veg into it and you got a stamppot.  I am probably going to get this wrong, but I heard a story of its’ origin recently.  It had something to do with the invasion/freedom fight in Leiden way back in the day.  The soldiers had nothing to eat, so they copied the invading soldiers’ “stew” and invented the stamppot.

After years of only having boerenkool (the kale stamppot), it was high time to branch out.  Witlof or Belgian endive, as we call it in Canada, was an interesting ingredient.  They really use it here, not just as a spoon-type veg to carry an appetizer, but they really use it.  I always thought it was bitter as heck, but in this dish it is really good.  Wow, that is a good explanation – really good.  Here’s another try – It keeps its form, stays mildly crunchy and it cuts the richness in the dish.  The clove cheese may prove very difficult to find back in Canada, but you could try.  You could also just sprinkle some whole or ground cloves on top of a good gouda (that means: get it at a cheese shop and don’t use that processed smoked sliced stuff you see at the supermarket, please!).

I seem to think that stamppot is a main on its own, but Mr. F is always wanting it with a side of protein (a true meat and potatoes man – my Dad would be proud).  This one goes well with the traditional accompaniment of sausage or beef, but I tried it with a white fish and it was super.  I’ve made it twice in the last month and it has been met with rave reviews.  Mr. F calls it crack-in-a-bowl, I call it rich, smooth and something different for your dinner.     

 

 Friese Witlof Stamppot – Albert Heijn online http://www.ah.nl/recepten (sorry they are all in Dutch)

This serves 4 people a good-sized helping.

I kg potatoes peeled and quartered

1 kg belgian endive (aka witlof or chicory)

2 tbsp butter

1 vegetable stock cube + 1 cup water or 1 cup prepared stock

0.5 cup (125ml) creme fraiche or sour cream

150g (2/3 cup) grated Friesland clove cheese (replaced by a good gouda cheese sprinkled with whole or ground cloves)

salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Boil the potatoes in a pot full of water for about 20 minutes or when they can easily be pierced with a fork.  As this is coming to a boil, prepare the endive.  Cut off the base and slice down the center in oder to remove the core.  Melt the butter in a large pan.  Add the endive and the stock.  Cook on low with the lid on for about 20 minutes or until the endive is softish and becomes more translucent.  Stir the creme fraiche or sour cream in with the endive and season with nutmeg and black pepper. 

Turn the broiler on in the oven.  Drain the potatoes and mash.  I find it easier to mash if I add some of the liquid from the endive pan.  Once mashed creamy, mix the potatoes and endive together.  Place this mixture into an oven dish and sprinkle with the clove cheese.  Melt the cheese under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is a golden brown.  Serve big heaping scoops onto each plate and as I mentioned a side of meat is optional.

Here is the post I promised.  A nice bread for a side of soup.  These biscuits are perfect on the side of soup, salad, stew or chili.  As you all may have noticed from the blog, I am not much of a baker.  Yes, I have my mainstays like Mr. F’s favourite chocolate chip cookies and a good pizza crust, but beyond that I always feel nervous.  When I do take the plunge I am usually surprised at the ease of the whole thing and also pretty dang proud of myself.  These biscuits are no exception.

Let me tell you a little something funny – baking powder biscuits were the first thing I ever made on my own.  The setting:  a small home-economic’s classroom kitchen in grade 7.  Remember home-ec?  I secretly loved that class.  Cooking, baking, sewing, learning about the colour family you look best in – this is all the other side of me that some don’t know about.  As long as I am letting it all hang out, I will confess that at the moment I am obsessed with crocheting.  Yup, a closet crafter in an athlete’s body.  Well, a 6 month pregnant athlete’s body – is that an oximoron? 

Now that you know me a little better, let’s get on with these biscuits.  So, they make these things for the first recipe in a home-ec class.  That indicates their ease and what is nicer than home-baked bread straight from the oven that was a cinch?  That is why I make these so often.  Also this recipe uses ingredients that I always have on hand.  I used to add an egg, but when I tried my friend A.J.’s when we were over for dinner at her place, I omitted the egg on her advice that they come out way flakier.  She was right.

These biscuits are flaky, buttery, light, soft centered and crispy crusted.  They take barely any time to whip up and are a welcome warm side to bowls filled with stuff.  If you wanna take them up a notch, they are a perfect vehicle for cheese and herbs like in the ones I made with the Tomato Soup.  Please try them, they may become a staple in your home as they have in mine.

Baking Powder Biscuits – greatly adapted from Grandma’s Touch Cookbook

I am giving you a recipe that makes approximately 10 small biscuits.  If you want more, simply double the recipe.  If you are adding anything to them (grated cheese, chopped fres herbs, etc), add it before the milk, right into the flour mixture.  Do not knead, just form into a flat circle and cut out the shapes.  Here, I just used a knife and made triangles, but circles are traditional, so it’s your choice.  Maybe even a cookie cutter would add some fun!

1 cup flour

0.25 cup cold butter, sliced into pads

2 tsp baking powder

0.25 tsp salt

0.5 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees farenheit (230 degrees celsius). 

If you have a food processor:  Throw the flour, baking powder and salt into the processor.  Add the butter and process until the mixture looks mealy.  Take out the blade or transfer to a bowl and add the milk.  Stir until just mixed and then turn out onto a floured surface.

If you don’t:  Add the flour, baking powder and salt to a bowl.  Add the butter and use a pastry cutter or a fork to cut in the butter.  You are finished when the butter chunks are about pea-sized.  Add the milk and stir unit just mixed.  Turn out onto a floured surface.

  Use your hand to form a flat circle about 1 inch thick.  Use a sharp knife to cut out shapes or an upside down glass to cut out the circles.  Place on a sprayed or parchment covered baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees fahrenheit (230 degrees celcius).

With the weather we have been having this week, my mind and my stomach are craving some soup.  A warm hug, steaming up my glasses and warming my insides.  That is what I am talking about.  Back in the day, when I was a little kid, I did not like tomato soup.  I know!  What kid doesn’t like Campbells tomato soup?  That is what the commercials try to tell us, but true story,  I could not stomach the stuff.  If it was chicken noodle, then I was in, but the canned tomato soup just didn’t taste like tomatoes to me.

More recently, as an adult, I pride myself on getting to know the foods I don’t like.  I once spent a month eating cottage cheese and fruit for breakfast until I “acquired” the taste for the curded cheese.  It is a fun game of forcing myself to like things that my taste buds are just saying no to.  You should try it some time.  I’ve got myself to also like olives and blue cheese.  Y’all can throw a new challenge my way at anytime, but make it reasonable!

Anyways, I finally got my self to like tomato soup.  All I had to do was make it from scratch.  Now I am a huge fan of the stuff and my recipe is just as easy as popping open a can of Campbells and warming it.  Sorry Campbells, but I gotta get people to make their own soup out there.  That salt commercial you got, just isn’t that appetizing.  I know there is a heck load still in that tiny can…

As for the mini meatballs, that is typical Dutch as the Dutch would say.  I had never found a meatball in soup until I ate soup at a hotel in Holland when I was here for a world cup.  I must say, it is quite tasty and fits on the spoon just right.  Nothing beats the combo of tomatoes and meatballs (think spaghetti and meatballs), so this is just a natural combo.  Adding the meat also takes this soup into the main course category.  Now all you need is some bread on the side and that is coming up in my next installment!

Tomato Soup with Mini Meatballs – my own invention

1 tbsp oil

1 tbsp butter

1 onion, roughly chopped

3 sticks celery, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 medium sized cans of whole tomatoes or 1 large monster can

water

1 bunch fresh basil

Meatballs:

150g ground beef or pork

salt and pepper 

Start by heating up the oil and butter together.  Toss in the onion and celery and soften them up.  Add the garlic when the onions are almost clear.  You don’t want to over cook the garlic because it will get bitter.  Dump in the cans of whole tomatoes (I heard that whole tomatoes are only cooked once before canning, but diced are cooked twice, that means that the whole ones have more of their fresh flavour).  Take the empty can and fill it three times with water and add it to the soup (1.5 times if you are using one big can).  Add salt and pepper. This will need quite a bit of salt since we just used water, but now you see that we are controlling the amount of salt going in.  Brilliant, right?

This is your soup.  Let it simmer for as long as you have time for.  Tonight I let it simmer for 30 minutes, some nights as soon as it is boiling I am moving to the next step.  Next step, take a handheld blender and whiz all this up.  Leave it a bit chunky for texture, but this is why we get to just roughly chop.  Brilliant, right?

Now make up the mini meatballs and toss them in one at a time.  Think small grape when you are making them.  Gently stir and make sure the meatballs are cooked through.  Takes about 5 minutes.  Right before serving, tear up some basil and toss it right into each bowl.  Trust me this is some good fresh tasting tomato soup!

 

Yay, it was my birthday yesterday!  I am one of those gals that loves a birthday.  I am one of those gals that announces it to people weeks in advance so they don’t feel stupid when I say, “Oh, its my birthday today” or say “It was my birthday yesterday.”  Nope, I give people all the chance they can get to wish me a good b-day.  Why?  Because I like it and because I know that I like making people feel special on their birthday too, so why not give others that chance.  Anyways, birthdays are a chance to celebrate and why would I pass up a chance like that?!

I got pancakes in bed, a sweet cookbook from loving Mr. F and in the evening we went out for Thai with some great friends we made here.  I was weary about the Thai place, though.  It took a while to pick a restaurant.  Mr. F and I spent an evening biking around the cobble-stoned streets in the center to check out where the hot spots were.  Turns out that the Dutch also like to eat out on Fridays and Saturdays because the centrum was hopping.  I had my eye on something asian and thought Thai would be just right.  The problem was that one of the Thai restaurants in Calgary is a personal fave, so going for Thai here could be a major disappointment.  Well, I am happy to report that it was a major delight!  I just love the way Thai food has such a variety of the most flavourful food I have ever tasted.  Seafood soup, spicy peanut sauces, coconut curries, the list goes on.  How about a sweet and sour sauce, oh man, my mouth is watering again with the thoughts of last night’s meal…

On the recipe front, aside from my birthday, I did try something, FINALLY.  I say finally because I have had a can of harissa paste in my cupboard for probably 3 months now.  Maybe even longer.  When I read the ravings of a certain carrot and harissa salad plastered across the food-blogesphere I frantically searched all the tiny grocers in my city until I found a coveted can of this harissa paste*.  What was it?  How did it taste?  And then, this dilemma arose.  Mr. F. eats carrots every day, every single day, for lunch.  Could I possibly serve him a carrot salad for supper without him turning orange?  So, the colourful can of harissa got lost in the back of the cupboard.

Then, I read about another salad that used harissa paste.  Thanks to The Wednesday Chef, we got to taste this mysterious red paste, finally.  It is hot, kind of sweet, garlicky and a bit tomato-y.  I don’t know if the tomato taste is a ghost taste since it is so red, but anyways, you gotta try this stuff out for yourself.  It made me feel all worldly, trying an ingredient that is not found anywhere in my culture.  I’ll give you the option, try the carrot salad or the zucchini one.  Try one of them and let me know what you think of harissa. 

*I ended up finding the paste at a Turkish grocery store.  It’s common in North Africa or that is what Wiki says.  Oh, and it is crushed pimentos.

Foodlova

I'm an ex-Olympian and I have a serious passion for food. I guess you could call me a food lova! What about you?

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