By Mark van Engeland

 
FEED ME MORE!

I can see this week's column turning out to be as much about English cuisine as it is about Dutch; because every time I hint that I might like to try a specific Dutch meal, I receive a counter-hint that an English dish would be appreciated.
Since I'm unfortunate enough to be able to cook pretty well (men who can't cook never get asked to!), I keep ending up up to my elbows in flour and giblets (the construction of that sentence was as much to prove that the word 'up' can be used twice consecutively, in a sentence which makes no mention of Superman, as it was to make the stated point).

One of the most frequent requests is a dish which was recently 'made' (I use the word reservedly) in a popular American TV show...

<Dutch Friends mode on>

    Rachel :  {pronounced: 'Rah-*cough-hack*-ell', by the way}  Look, guys!  I made a British trifle for you guys to try, guys!
    Chandler :  {pronounced: '*cough-hack*-und-lerr'}{affects a godawful English accent}  So, My Dear, you've been trifling in the kitchen, all morning?  Toodle-pip?
    Ross :  {pronounced: 'Ross'}{acts morose and hang-dog}  Oh, don't talk like that -- it reminds me of...  erm...  What's-her-name...  My second wife...
    Joey :  {pronounced: 'Yo-ei'}  The English one?  Wasn't she your third?
    Ross :  Naw, that was...  Erm...  Lemme think...
    Rachel :  {angrily}  Hey!!!
    Joey :  Oh, yeah.  I got it {holds hot-dog outside window to catch tomato ketchup}.
    Monica :  {stage-whispering frantically to Ross}  Ross!  You've got to do something!  Two pages of the cook-book were stuck together, so Rachel's made a half trifle, half cottage pie!
    Ross :  Really?  So she's mixed up two desserts.  What's wrong with that?  It won't be too bad.
    Monica :  But cottage pie isn't a dessert!  It's made with meat and potatoes!
    Ross :  Oh.  My. God!   That.  Will.  Be. Awful!
    Unidentified Dutchman :  {in the kitchen area, tasting the trifle}  Hmmm!  Is very nice, this trifle.  Very tasty.

<Dutch Friends mode off>

The hardest part about making trifle, over here, is that the jelly is so different (I think Americans call jelly by the trade name 'Jell-O', but I get confused between jam, jelly, etc., in Ameri-speak).  The Dutch have these jelly dessert thinghies; but they don't set quite firmly enough, and they seem to dissolve after a short time.  That's probably my fault, but if they had the sense to put instructions on the box in English, there wouldn't be a problem, hmmm?
I can make jelly out of gelatin, fruit juice/syrup, etc., but it's too easy to get wrong and too fiddly, when the jelly is only one part of the dish -- and I don't want all that fuss.
So, every time someone comes over from England, I make them bring a jelly.
...And English mustard (I love this, and it's great to see people's faces when they try it for the first time -- then rush off to the nearest source of cold water!).
...And lotsjes of Branston Pickle!
Maybe I ought to put those three on Double-0 PS's shopping-list, to see how he copes.

Anyway, enough of my cooking (as if anyone could ever have enough of my cooking!), let's talk about...

...The Big Cheese Rip-Off!

<Double-0 PS mode on>

    The situation was tense.  I was not sure how much longer I would be able to maintain my cover.
    I had barely managed to avoid the attention of one of the guards, by ducking behind the fresh vegetables section to the chiller area...
    ...Then I saw it...
    I couldn't believe it!  Our fiendish enemy's most dastardly plot yet!
    Wasn't there enough evil in making mustard so weak that you need to apply half a jar to a ham sandwich before you can taste it?
    Hadn't they caused enough suffering by using peanuts in a sauce for beef?
    But this...
    This...
    I studied the evidence carefully, rolling it over in my hands.
    My first impressions had been absolutely correct.
    Instead of wrapping their cheeses in some nice, non-porous substance; to keep it from going stale; they were smothering it with low-grade imitation wax.
    Air was getting through, making up to a full half-inch of the cheese go hard, and inedible!
    Those fiends!
    Making people pay premium prices for food which had to be thrown away!

    To be Continued....

<Double-0 PS mode suspended>

Actually, that really bugs me.  It's perfectly true.  Polythene wrap for cheese is cheap, and keeps it nice and fresh, but cheese here is dipped in equally cheap liquid plastic, which is designed to look like traditional wax.  This liquid plastic lets air through so the cheese goes stale, wherever it touches.  Annoyingly, the cheeses are sliced, and the slices wrapped in polythene.  Where the polythene covers the cheese, it stays fresh, and you can actually see how much of the cheese you are going to have to pare off and throw away.  On some slices, it's up to ten or fifteen per cent.
Mind you, I'm not sure I should trust that Double-0 PS, any more -- not until I'm sure it wasn't him, behind buying me this bread-making machine.
The blasted thing only has instructions in Dutch (way over my head, and it would take hours to look up every word) and French!
You can imagine how chuffed I am at having to use the {*hawk* *spit*} French instructions!
What I've ended up doing is getting the recipe from good old Mrs. Beeton, and guessing at a setting.
Does anyone need any bricks?
(Actually, my first attempt is still in 'raising mode'.  I'll let you know how it turns out.).
But we don't want to talk about bread, when we can talk about...

Cakes!
I think I've mentioned before that Dutch cakes and sweets are great for someone with solid sugar teeth, like mine, and this opinion has certainly not changed.
I could go on at great length (if this is not your first Dutch & Such article, you will easily believe this) about the Delftshe Poffer and traditional cake specialities from Den Haag (the Hague), but I shall pass them by -- somewhat unfairly, because they're a real treat -- in favour of much more trivial things (you'd never have expected that of me, would you?).

Question:  How can a Briton, with no knowledge of Dutch traditional cuisine, make a traditional Dutch treat? (no pun intended).
Answer:  He doesn't.  He uses Scottish cuisine!
I was treated to a serving of Poffertjes in a café in Delft, and my immediate thought was: These taste like miniature Scotch Pancakes, smothered in icing sugar, so I stunned everyone by making some miniature Scotch Pancakes, and smothering them with icing sugar.  They were spot on, and cost a hell of a lot less than 7.50 (a couple of quid/three or four US$) a serving!
<Short pause, whilst I strike a cocky pose>

Even more fun than feeding my ego, however, is feeding my face.
Way, way back when I lived in Italy, my favourite breakfast was a couple of bomboloni and a cup or two of strip-the-paint-off-your-car strength expresso.  Bomboloni are doughnuts (the Americans call them 'do-nuts', which I've never understood, because they just sit there until you eat them), but filled with either vanilla or chocolate blancmange.
Yummy.  Some of my fondest memories of Italy involve eating breakfast.
Blancmange-filled doughnuts are not available in England (God only knows why -- and even He isn't too sure!), so I've learned to live without them.
Driving back from somewhere-or-other, a couple of weeks ago, we got stuck in horrendous traffic.  Now, I have a quite logical answer to heavy traffic:  Get off the road!
It doesn't matter if you are where you wanted to go, so long as you are out of the traffic.  Of course, not having worked as an employee for many years gives me more flexibility than most with this kind of thing, but you can stop making those excuses right now!
Anyway, my reaction to the traffic-jam was:  Find a café!
This was the early-evening rush-hour, so everything we passed was either closed or closing, but we did spot a mobile snack-bar which had not quite shut up shop.
We parked and went to the snack-bar, only for me to discover that it was not a standard snack-bar, but an Oliebollen (pron: OH-lee-bolleh) stall.  Something new.  I was happy.
A fun part of this was that they had a 'special offer' -- five oliebollen for ten guilders -- but neither of us had any cash!
We only just managed to get ten guilders together; after scraping through every pocket in our clothes, searching through the dashboard trays, emptying out the glove compartment and door pockets, feeling around in the mire under the car seats, and singing a couple of songs with a paper cup on the floor in front of us; but oh, boy, am I glad we did!
Oliebollen are leavened dough, rather than the cakey dough of doughnuts; so they go crunchy on the outside, which is nice -- and they fill them with all manner of things sweet and wonderful!
I had a pineapple, a banana, and a chocolate one (Of course I had three!  Who's in charge, here!), and they were superb!

So, if I'm at your house for breakfast, some time, you know to get the paint-stripper grade coffee going, and to make sure you've a good supply of oliebollen!
(unless, of course, you have any left-over trifle -- the world's greatest breakfast!)

Did someone say trifle?
Isn't that where we started?
And there you were, thinking I didn't know what I was doing!
 

 

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