Nederlands Dutch cuisine Yesterday I came back from a trip to the Netherlands.  It was my first time there and, sincerely, I fell in love with the country.  I was visiting my friend Lynn whom I’d met last year at school in Spain...

Nederlands
Nederlands

Dutch cuisine

Yesterday I came back from a trip to the Netherlands.  It was my first time there and, sincerely, I fell in love with the country.  I was visiting my friend Lynn whom I’d met last year at school in Spain and after a year we were meeting again.  It was an awesome reunion.  I stayed at Lynn´s house together with her family and learned a lot, not only about Dutch cuisine but also about life in Netherlands.  So I wrote a little summary about the foods the Dutch are most proud of in the culinary world. So just immerse yourself with thoughts of the Netherlands for the next little while.

Cheese

Wine and cheese
Wine and cheese

One of the most interesting experiences was a “cheese tasting class“. We booked the class for 4:30 p.m. so at 3 p.m. we were having a nice picnic at Vondelpark, one of the nicest parks in Amsterdam. In no more than 30 minutes the sky went dark and it started to rain. “You see, this is typical for Amsterdam” Lynn said.  Running in torrential rainfall, with jackets on our heads,  baguettes and tzatziki in bags, we finally arrived in Reypenaer Cheese showroom.  We entered into a small shop and took old wooden stairs down to the basement where we were welcomed by young smiling woman in what looked like a “class room“.  On each desk there was a variety of cheeses with a “guillotine“ which is a wooden board with a moving knife attached to it.  It serves to cut cheese in nice thin slices, so that you could fully appreciate the smell and taste of each type.

Cheese Tasting
Cheese Tasting

Presentation was accompanied by a variation of wines, each cheese coupled with specific type of wine. We started with two goat cheeses, one 4 and one 10 months old. Both were white compared with buttery yellowish cow-milk cheeses, that’s because carotenoids from grass present in cows milk  is not entirely processed in the digestive tract of the cow.  Generally, one would be advised to drink white wine while eating Goat Cheese.

Next came a variety of cow cheeses.   Over time that afternoon we tried four kinds of cow cheese. At the beginning of the ripening process, they all tasted the same, a typical Dutch Gouda.   The only difference was the length of the ripening process, varying from 4 months to 2 to 5 years.  We were asked to identify the smell and taste of each kind and to help we had a table with pictures of different smells ranging from vanilla, caramel, chocolate through grass and wood.

Cheese tasting
Cheese tasting

Young 4 month old cheese was moist, slightly yellow with a buttery flavour which we ended up pairing with white wine. As the cheese was getting older it got darker, the texture becoming drier (a parmesan type) with visible crispy crystals, which form while the caramelization process occurs during ripening.  The flavour was becoming nutty and to our surprise it smelt like chocolate and toffee!  Needless to say, we combined those cheeses with red wine.

Finally we got to the king of Reypanear cheeses, 2 to 5 year old Reypenaer XO. Dark yellowish with a significant crisp and our biggest surprise was a cognac scent!  We were offered a nice port wine from Provence to accompany the Reypenaer XO, although it would pair well with cognac due to its smell and strong salty flavour.

Eating up the last bites of the “King of Reypenaer cheeses“, and already a little tipsy from all the great wines we tasted, we left the showroom to “again shiny” Amsterdam.

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Dutch Brined Herring

Herrings may be eaten in many different ways; smoked, pickled, baked or the more unusual, raw! Originating in the Netherlands, preparation of raw herring is a difficult process. They use young immature herrings, all the inner organs taken out only liver and pancreas are left. Herrings are then put in oak barrels with brine and are kept there for about 5 days. The enzymes from the pancreas and liver initiate the maturing process. After 5 days the herring are ready to be eaten.

Dutch Brined Herring
Dutch Brined Herring

I ate my first herring in the Port of Ijmuiden, a small town about an hour from Amsterdam.  Ralph, the friend of Lynn took me there. Just getting out of car we could smell the fish scent accompanied by seagull sounds. The weather was just perfect, the sun was strong and the wind even stronger. With hair in my eyes, we entered a tiny shop where we were served raw herring with chopped onion and pickles.  To my surprise there was no bread, but I soon found out that it was not needed. Stephan, the waiter showed me the Dutch way of eating herring. You pick up your herring by the tail, it is very slimmy so the onion sticks to it.  Cock back your head and bite it.  Four bites and that´s it!

 Brined Herring
Brined Herring

Stroopwaffles or Dutch syrup waffles

Two circle-shaped waffles as big as a palm of your hand, made with flour, butter, sugar, eggs, milk and yeast stuck together by caramel filling made of syrup, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon.   The first waffles were produced in the city of Gouda in the 16th century.  (same name as the typical Dutch cheese, with the literal meaning of “round“).  I bought some as a present for my family and was really surprised how heavy they were.  Just 10 thin waffles, seemingly very light, weight 315g.

Stroopwaffles
Stroopwaffles

Mustards

In the Netherlands there are still mills, milling mustard seeds in the old traditional way. Mustard pairs nicely with cheeses so most shops offering samples for tasting serve a variety of unique and interesting mustards alongside. The most common was your traditional mustard and the one mixed with honey. You can also find mustards with red or green pesto, pepper, chilli and balsamic vinegar. I brought home cranberry mustard.  Very unusual combination what pairs wonderfully with hams and meats even better than with cheese.

Mustards
Mustards

I hope with my informal descriptions, you’ve expended your knowledge of international cuisine and maybe this article has inspired you to visit the Netherlands one day.  I highly recommend a visit to this lovely country, and discover that it´s not only mills, tulips and cheese what makes a Dutch Spirit, but much, much more.

Martina