Sunday, January 22, 2012

Every Nation Enjoys Their Comfort Food: Dutch Mashed Potatoes with Kale (Boerenkool)

This week my work travel took me to Schagen in the Netherlands where I spent a couple of days with seed potato growers from Scotland, England, Poland and Holland as well as my equally international colleagues. We had been visiting potato grading stations and warehouses in the unfriendly weather with a brief glimpse into a windmill that tamed the heavy wind into flour for a local bakery. For the first time I visited a greenhouse where 1.000.000 tulips were being grown at a time. The farmer’s wife was not so keen on the bulbs but rather on tourism and had set up a complementing business branch providing tulip excursions. The excursion started with hot coffee and a selection of fresh cakes from the bakery that was as heart-warming to the freezing group as the first snowdrops in front of my house in the middle of January.
Dutch tulips grown in soil, not in hydroponics (Blackberry photo quality)

As we travelled in the car to the tulip greenhouse we passed a field where unusual green plants were growing. It was curly kale or boerenkool in Dutch or Federkohl in German. This type of cabbage is in season only in winter. My Dutch colleague told me that they eat boerenkool with mashed potatoes and sausage. It sounded as a delicious comfort food cooked and enjoyed by Dutch families. I promised to try it. The cooking instructions were quite general and I deliberately did not search on the web for such recipes. The nature of this true example of the northern potato-cabbage dish sounded simple and I jumped to the experiment after I was lucky to find some kale still on sale at the Saturday farmers´ market.

There was one challenge – the onions! How did Meryl Streep in the role of Julia Child manage to slice the pile of onions almost as high as the Eiffel Tower without destroying her make-up or displaying any signs of tears? My trick of not crying over the onions has been the simple ventilation above the stove. Since it is broken now I was faced with a task and a question how do I do it without ending up in a mess of rabbit eyes and running mascara.

Apparently there is always a reason for things to happen when they happen. This morning I was reading How Not To Cry on Clotilde Dusoulier´s Chocolate & Zucchini e voilà, I found a perfect opportunity to try out some tips. This time I picked the "spoon in the mouth" and was hoping not to cry. Slicing the onion trying to manoeuvre with the knife and balance the spoon in my mouth was a challenge, but I DID NOT CRY!

Shopping list:
1 kg of starchy potatoes (eg Agria)
200 g of kale (Boerenkool/Federkohl)
200 g sausage cut into bite size pieces
0.5 dl or 2 tablespoons fresh cream
1 medium large onion
Rape seed oil
Salt, pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes into bigger pieces, chop the cabbage into smaller pieces.
Pour a little rape seed oil into a cooking pot. Add the potatoes, cabbage and 0.5l water or bouillon. Add some salt or 1 cube of bouillon when using water.

Bring to boil and reduce heat. Simmer for ca 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Then mash the potatoes together with kale. I only mashed slightly to keep a bit chunky.
Add the sausage and cream and heat up again.

The last thing left to do is the onion. In a separate pan heat 2-3 tablespoons of rape oil and sauté the sliced onion until golden. Add a pinch of salt to the onion if you prefer.

Serve the creamy mash with the onions.