Traditional winter dishes
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Traditionally Northern Europe adapts its food according to the seasons.
In the summer half year there are all sorts of light, fresh fruits and vegetables.
The autumn provides game, mushrooms and late fruit like apples and pears.
And in the winter, people had to rely on foods that could be kept long time like potatoes, beans and peas (often dried), onions, apples, pears, leek, smoked meats and sausage etc. This is also how traditional Dutch winter dishes came about.
I would just like to tell you a little bit more about this, before I will indulge tomorrow with a cup of heavy pea soup with smoked sausage and rye bread with lard…
Hutspot (“Mish Mash”) is a mix of mashed potatoes mixed up with boiled so-called winter carrots (huge carrots sliced in small cubes or strips) and cut onions.
White pepper and seasoning like ground nutmeg and laurel (bay leaf) make it a heavy but pleasant dish.
Add a piece of “klapstuk” (beef from the rib, simmered) and dark brown gravy, and you are up for something that gives you enough energy to survive the coldest temperatures
(Note: for our Flemish friends, hutspot is more like a thick soup; our “hutspot” is “stoemp” in Flemish)
Boerenkool met worst (Kale with sausage) is another classic.
The leaves of kale (a dark green relative of the Brussels sprouts) are torn or hacked to small pieces like two by two centimeter and boiled in water with some salt until tender.
Also boil the potatoes but don't overcook them.
The potatoes are mushed, but not completely.
Then this is mixed with the kale. Salt and pepper is added. Sometimes also some mustard and honey, to reduce the somewhat bitter taste of the kale.
This mix is served with nice dark tasty gravy, of course, and with a nice piece of warm smoked sausage.
Spruiten (Brussels Sprouts) is a typical winter dish as well.
Children have a big problem with it and even some adults.
They are boiled to tender but still with a bite. Small pieces of lard (lardons) cooked in there own fat are mixed through it.
Some pepper and salt, and you have a fine vegetable dish that is eaten with boiled potatoes.
A nice piece of beef with it goes well, but also pork lard slices cooked in butter.
It is also often served with game meat such as deer or boar.
Bruine Bonensoep (Brown bean soup) is a whole meal soup that has been forgotten almost.
It is a very thick soup, made from dried brown beans, stock based on a piece of bone with marrow, leek, potato cubes, celeriac cubes, pork lardons, pieces of winter carrot, sausage.
It is one of those dishes that will simmer overnight and be perfect the next day.
The brown beans have a very healthy effect on your digestive system, with some gaseous effects that are not always appreciated by the people around you.
That is why perhaps this dish is not eaten so often anymore.
Kapucijnerpotje (Little pot of grey peas) is a very rich vegetable dish, based on this variety on the green pea, sometimes called grey peas because the outside is brown/grayish.
In restaurants this long forgotten dish has been rediscovered, and is often served in heated small stone pots.
Usually eaten with potatoes (boiled, baked).
Stoofpeertjes (Red braised pears). A side dish.
Only a very special type of pear should be used, the “Gieser Wildeman”.
The pears are skinned and are then in whole or in halves braised for a long time with red port wine (some people use berry liqueur), vanilla bean, cinnamon, sugar, vanilla sugar, cloves and nutmeg. As a result of this process,
the pears get dark red inside and out.
Due to the slow cooking the fluid is already reduced, but sometimes a little corn starch is used to make it into a bright red thick syrup.
Erwtensoep (Pea soup) is the most famous winter dish of the Netherlands.
It is a very thick, whole-meal soup made from green dried peas as the main ingredient.
Other ingredients usually include smoked pork lard, ham slices, bay leaves, potato, leek, celeriac, winter carrots, pepper corns, celery, and smoked sausage.
All these ingredients are slowboiled together with the green peas for longer or shorter time and then cut into little pieces or cubes or (for the sausage) slices.
The soup is extremely popular as a meal during outdoor events in the winter. It is usually served with a piece of very dark rye bread with some lard spread.
Jachtschotel (Hunter’s dish) is an oven dish which is often made to use the meat leftovers, such as beef, game,
roast pork, etc.
The other ingredients typically include potatoes, sour apples, butter, cloves, laurel (bay leaf), pepper, thyme, onions, and a thin layer of bread crumb on the top.
Hete bliksem (Hot Lightning) is another oven dish, similar to Jachtschotel, but then usually with sweet apples instead of sour, sometimes with leek or mushroom added into it, and usually not with any meat in it (which can instead be served separately).
Wine may be an additional ingredient.
Sometimes pieces of smoked pork are included.
With the pepper, cloves and salt it can be made into a tasteful, sometimes slightly spicy dish.
Traditional winter beverages include such things as:
Bisshops’ wine (a red wine with
cinnamon, cloves and orange zest, served warm)
Hot Chocolate (or course, and sometimes
spiced up with a good dash of rhum)
Hot Anise Milk (especially for those who
feel they are catching a cold)