Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dutch Delight: Mustard Soup

I visit Holland quite often.Reflecting on Estonia and The Netherlands three commonalities jump to mind:
- Everyone - children and grown-ups - drinks milk and/or sour milk. In Holland many companies even provide free milk and sour milk to their employees.
- Flat landscape: the highest points above sea level of the two countries are 318m in Estonia and 322m in the Netherland.
- Potatoes are widely grown and eaten.

Etymologically, I find the small Low Countries at the North sea highly complex: The official name of the country is The Netherlands, everyone calls this country Holland (official name of two provinces) and they speak Dutch. Three totally different words for something close in meaning. Compare to Estonia and the Estonian language (Eesti and eesti keel) or Germany and German (Deutschland and deutsch).

A brief summary of my observations of the recent trip is here.

1. KLM seems to be rather behind in serving healthy and fresh food to their passangers compared to some other airlines. On short flights (1.5h) they offer a choice of a sweet packaged biscuit or savoury packaged cheese wafer balls. My advice to them, please stop serving these cheese balls and rather serve nothing at all...or better a traditional caramel wafer.The fact that the balls with a type of wafer cover hiding a hardened fat mixture with some sort of cheese or milk powder, salt and basically nothing worth putting in your mouth are called Delicious Dutch makes it rather grotesque.
In comparison, Swiss offer sandwiches they claim are "made on the same day" and Finnair who despite their frequent strikes have put some effort in and changed to rather tasty and "green" airline food.
Dutch wafers with syrup or caramel. Leave one on a hot tea or coffee cup and enjoy!

Dutch soft raisin buns

2. There are many many traditional Dutch foods I like. This time I enjoyed soft raisin buns, croquetten (deep fried, made of mashed potato and pork), cheese with cumin seeds, mustard soup.
Cod with artichoke, mashed potato mousse, mustard condiment

3. Everything is very narrow in Amsterdam, streets, windows, doors. No wonder as more than 16 million people must fit onto an area smaller than Estonia. Estonia has only 1.3 million inhabitants. People working in the capital are moving further out where there is more space. Around Amsterdam there are a few newly built towns. I stayed at Lelystad and had a dinner in a small cosy restaurant or rather an eating house "Eethuisje de Gordiaan". One can find many good restaurants across Holland, also in smaller towns and villages, serving most wonderful very high quality food. The fresh cod with artichokes, mustard condiment and potato mousse made my evening.
Fair Trade breakfast jam: reduce the container size or serve from a jar

4. Another grotesque finding was a half-empty plastic container with a teaspoonful of breakfast jam from Fair Trade in it. Maybe going half the way is better than nothing ... wondering.

5. Here is my version of  mustard soup. Mustard soup is a traditional Dutch delight. (this one has been inspired by Carlton President hotel. Normally the soup is yellow.)

Makes 3 - 4 portions

1 onion, chopped
20g butter
1 Big potato

1.25 l water
a few cubes of frozen spinach (traditionally not included)
2-3 tablespoons of grainy mustard
2 table spoons creme fresh or fresh cheese
bacon strips

Cook the onion in butter until glassy. Add potato cubes, sauté and stir a few minutes more. Add water and a pinch of salt and cook till potato is soft. Add spinach and mustard and cook till the soup is boiling, then take off the heat and purée into a smooth soup. Return to heat,  add crème fresh or fresh cheese and bring to boil stirring the soup.
Fry the bacon slices in a dry pan on both sides until crispy. Take out of the pan onto the kitchen paper to suck in the excess fat.
Serve it hot and garnish with chopped chives and bacon.
Mustard Soup with Spinach