Enjoy an authentic Dutch Feast with Emily Wight »

With the renaissance in gin, try modern Dutch food to soak it up!

By Robyn Lewis
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<i>Dutch Feast</i> by Emily Wight

Dutch Feast by Emily Wight [©ARSENAL PULP PR]

 

Emily Wight lives in Vancouver, an unlikely location perhaps for an author of a Dutch food cookbook, until you discover she’s a prolific food traveller and writer, recipe developer and blogger, with an interest in international cuisines. The name of her blog (and first cookbook) Well Fed Flat Broke gives a clue – it’s about eating great food and not paying a lot for it.

Which according to Emily sums up much of Dutch food, apparently. I’m sure that like everywhere else, you can dine expensively in the Netherlands, but like most of northern Europe until very recently, Dutch family food emphasised thrift and practicality, enlivened on occasion by spicy additions from its colonial and trading past in colonies like Indonesia and the West Indies.

Emily is clearly passionate about the family meal, despite – or because of – having a young family, a job, and like many of us, trying to ‘do it all’. What started as collecting and creating recipes for grazing-style meals with a 6-year old has morphed into something more, as Dutch Feast testifies. She married into a Dutch family, and came to love – and adapt – their food as a result.

We’ve had the Nordic food revolution; now it’s Holland’s turn, thinks Emily. She aims to be at the forefront of the Dutch culinary renaissance. After all, the Dutch national drink, gin – which gets its name from the Dutch word for juniper, genever – has taken off massively in the last decade or so, so why not a new take on the food to accompany it?

Delve between the covers of Dutch Feast and you can easily find plenty of dishes to have with drinks. I’d never heard of Borrels before (Dutch tapas), but here are 14 recipes for bar snacks, including three sorts of Bitterballs (croquettes); Marinated Herring; Curry Cashews; Fried Cheese Balls; and a potato chip dish topped with meat, cheese and veggies named Hairdresser Fries, “straight-up booze food”! So, let’s look a bit deeper.

The book starts with Stocking Your Dutch Kitchen, which doesn't sound much different from your average multicultural kitchen anywhere – lots of spices both dried and fresh, dried fruits, eggs and dairy.

About the only ingredient I don’t have in my own pantry is anise extract, which Emily uses in place of anise seeds in baking and ice cream. Rose water was used extensively in Dutch baking prior to the arrival of vanilla, so you’ll need that too. And of course gin, which you can use in place of juniper if that’s hard to find.

Cheese features heavily in Dutch cuisine, although many cannot be purchased outside Holland, so you’ll need Edam and Gouda, the latter including young, aged and smoked for the cheesy recipes.

Breakfast recipes start with Hangop, basically thickened yoghurt, served with Roasted Rhubarb, and include various cakes, breads, waffles and pancakes, including Sweet Gerties which are flavoured with rosewater and cinnamon. I’m already getting the feeling that the Dutch like cakes!

You can wash them down with either Saffron or Star Anise Milk though, which sound healthy and different.

A section on Coffee Time and Daytime Entertaining follows, with more cakes, some cookies and bard, and four tarts including Limburg (with a bread-like, yeast leavened crust), Prune, Rice and Apple. There aren’t too many kids who wouldn’t enjoy Rose Meringues, and there’s one for the adults: Kandeel, a mulled white wine thickened with egg yolks, “reminiscent of warm apple cider” – use an inexpensive sweeting Riesling, and serve at a baby shower, she suggests.

Weeknight Dinners sounds wholesome and fairly easy and would be good for casual weekend guests as well. There are more pancakes (Pannenkoek) with toppings, these made from rye flour; Cheese Toasties for the kids; soups and an interesting dish called Keeshi Yena from Aruba in the Caribbean “originally prepared by… slaves using discarded cheese-wheel scraps” (and similar to the South African Bobotie).

A favourite is Dutch Macaroni, “a cross between American goulash and… pasta with meat sauce” which is a one-pot meal and “a regular feature on Dutch dinner tables”.

The recipes are generally homey and nourishing, and many are designed to “feed hungry kids immediately”, although with adults in mind too, like Hot Lightening, which is basically mashed potatoes but with the additions of apples, bacon and spices.

Note that not all recipes have photos, so even with one named Bums in the Grass, which “looks like naked bums frolicking in fields of grass” you have to use your own imagination in presentation.

Emily Wight included a couple of pages about cooking with Beer, noting “Beer is … an essential aspect of Dutch cuisine; it’s used in a wide range of recipes, from soups and stews to bierpap (a kind of porridge made of milk and beer)…”.

However, she notes that “A modern challenge inherent with cooking with beer is that is it popular to add distinctive hop notes to beers; this is fine for drinking but in many recipes, hoppy beers can disrupt the balance of flavours you worked so hard to carefully craft, or otherwise throw a dish right off” – something I noticed myself recently when I decided to cook lamb shanks in beer instead of red wine. She gives several beer and food matching tips, however.

Her Braised Meatballs are cooked in beer (lager or pilsner) instead of the creamier sauces favoured by the Scandinavians, and these will be something I’ll try soon too. Mussels with Beer and Red Chillies sound delicious too.

Delving into Holland’s colonial past she brings us a chapter on the famous Rijsttafel, or Rice Table – recipes from Indonesia (formerly the Dutch East Indies) that were taken back to the Netherlands and enthusiastically embraced. Saoto is their equivalent of nourishing chicken broth, which traditionally starts a Rijsttafel, but could be a stand-alone dish.

There are several easy rice and noodle dishes that teens could easily prepare, and of course Gado-Gado, Chicken Saté, a Meatball Curry plus Spicy Prawns with Green Beans – a vegetable which apparently features frequently on Dutch tables – and a delicious-sounding Babi Ketjap, of pork slow cooked in ketjap manis and spices. Finish it off with Banana (and coconut milk) Ice Cream and you have all the makings for a very different sort of feast.

A short section on Licorice follows: the Dutch call it drop, and it can be sweet, salty, hard or gummy. If you’re a fan there’s a recipe for Salted Licorice Ice Cream, which is flavoured with anise extract, perfect for Pernod lovers. I love aniseed so if I can get anise extract I’ll certainly try this out.

More Comfort Food – this is definitely a family-oriented cookbook – including various soups (Mustard Soup anyone?) and such dishes as Hachee with Beer and Apples (a beef stew); Braised Beef with Sauerkraut Stamppot; beef pastries that look like empanadas called Pastechi, and others made with cranberry and persimmon.

There’s also a selection of recipes for Christmas, which is celebrated in a very civilised manner over two days, with dishes like Stuffer Pork Loin; Herring and Potato Salad, and Beet and Apple Salad, washed down with a type of mulled wine made with cabernet sauvignon and called Bishop’s Wine.

The Dutch are big on chocolate which features in a number of Dessert recipes, and also Hot Chocolate with lots of cream. This is not a book for the diet-conscious! As a finale there’s a section on Condiments and Preserves, including how to make your own Ketjap Manis and Sambal Oelek if you live somewhere where you can’t buy these Indonesian staples.

Overall, I found this book to be far more family than cutting edge – in my opinion, it falls somewhat short of putting Dutch food on the international culinary map, as was Wight’s initial aim – but it does introduce the overlooked cuisine of Holland to your home kitchen, and I’m sure you will find some tasty treasures within.

And for anyone with Dutch heritage or a Dutch partner, it’s a must! Dutch kids of all ages will love this food too.

 

Dutch Feast by Emily Wight is published by Arsenal Pulp Press (Vancouver, Canada, Nov 2017; hc 262 pp) and is distributed in Australia by New South Books. RRP is A$39.99, NZ$ 47.99

 

Read the media release here »

It can be purchased directly from New South Books here »

Dutch Feast can also be purchased online via booko.com.au »

 

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August 22nd, 2018
 
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