If you have never tried a stroopwafel, you are in for a treat! After one bite of the thin, waffle cookie with a caramel-like filling, you can not help but be hooked on this Dutch specialty. Legend has it that in the early 19th century a baker from Gouda in the Netherlands combined leftover ingredients to create this culinary delight.
To make the cookie portion of the stroopwafel, you will need either a pizzelle iron or a specific type of waffle maker (the average North American mechanism‚Äôs ridges are to deep for this job). I am going to suggest that you simply buy a package of Belgium waffle butter cookies to prepare your very first batch (you can find these at stores like Trader Joe‚Äôs or Whole Foods). Then after preparing the following filling, you can take the sweet to the next level by following a recipe like this one at dianasdesserts.com.
Yield: 15 cookies
Set aside: 2 packages of Belgium Butter Cookies (there should be about 30 total)
1/2 cup golden syrup (this comes in a little tin can and can be found at the same store as where you purchase the cookies)
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat all the above filling ingredients in a saucepan over medium until it begins to boil, and then lower the temperature a bit (not quite to medium low).
Continue simmering until it has reached soft ball stage (about 235-245 degrees Fahrenheit). If you don‚Äôt have a candy thermometer, the liquid will begin thickening (large bubbles begin forming and they are a lighter caramel color) after approximately 5 minutes. With a spoon, allow a few drops of the hot mixture to drip into a cold bowl of water. If the syrup filling is ready, it will keep a ball like form while submerged but will lose its shape once it is removed from the water.
Allow the contents to cool a bit (about 10 minutes), so you don‚Äôt burn your fingertips completing the next step.
Spread about 1 tablespoon of the filling on one cookie and then gently press the second cookie on top and enjoy!
Outdoor markets, grocery stores and even vending machines sell these fabulous waffle cookies in the Netherlands. A traditional way to enjoy a stroopwafel is to rest one over a steaming cup of tea or coffee to warm it before taking the first bite. Now, if you really want to experience the real deal (the waffle cookie will be softer and absolutely worth the extra work), you will need to book flights to the Netherlands so that you can purchase the golden, caramel filled cookie while it is still warm from the waffle press at an open-aired marketplace.
Warm your belly with a hearty stew this winter. I would like to suggest a rendition of the traditional Irish Stew. The recipe is said to have existed for centuries, and originally it consisted of 4 primary ingredients: neck mutton chops, potatoes, onions, and water. Today, many variations of this dish exist. Should you try to discuss the topic of what goes into making a true Irish Stew with a native of Ireland, it can be a sticky subject. If you decide to substitute beef in place of the mutton or splash some Guinness into the pot for additional flavor, be aware that many Irish will inform you that while you have indeed prepared a stew, it would not be considered Irish Stew.
So, the rebel that I am, I am going to deviate from the original recipe. To put a North American spin on preparing this meal, I have modified the directions so that a crock pot can be used instead of simmering the stew in a large pot on the stove top.
Yield: 6 servings Use: a 6 quart crock pot
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs boneless lamb meat (cubed)
4 large carrots (peeled and sliced)
8 white round potatoes (peeled and cubed)
2 medium onions (chopped)
2 26-ounce containers of beef stock
¬Ω tsp of ground black pepper
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Once the oil is hot, place the lamb in the pan and brown both sides of each piece. While the meat is cooking, this is a good time to put the carrots and potatoes in the crock pot. Then, once the lamb is ready, add it to the crock pot.
Pour the beef stock into the crock pot and then mix in the onions.
Set the crock pot on low and let it cook for 6 hours.
I would suggest serving this dish with a side of Irish soda bread and for a beverage, a glass of Guinness only seems appropriate. This is a great recipe to make on a frigid, winter day. Warm your hands around your big ceramic bowl of stew before sitting down for the meal, and imagine traveling to Ireland where you will be able to taste a variety of Irish Stews. Below is an old Irish ballad (circa 1800) to read and set the mood when the time arises to book your flights to Ireland.
Some like herrings red from the ocean, And some like a bit of pig’s fry; Some like oxtail soup, I’ve a notion, While others like a pudding and pie. For all sorts of stomachs there are dainties, But the best feed between I and you, Is some mutton with onions and potatoes, Made into a real Irish Stew, Then hurrah for an Irish Stew, That will stick to your belly like glue; The sons of St. Patrick for ever, And three cheers for a real Irish stew.
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer! You have probably heard and caroled this line of We Wish You a Merry Christmas many times, but do you know what figgy pudding is? Honestly, I was not really sure myself.
Figgy pudding (or it is often referred to as plum pudding or Christmas pudding) is a traditional British dessert that is served after a large dinner Christmas Day. Recipes date back to the 17th century, and many families in England make the pudding following the same directions that generations of ancestors before them have used.
It is customary to make the pudding on the 25th Sunday after Trinity (this is generally in November).
The pudding is best when it has been allowed to age¬†(4 to 5 weeks is common practice in England) so that the flavors meld together.
13 ingredients were originally used when preparing this dish, and these were intended to be representative of Christ and the 12 apostles.
Each family would take turns mixing the ingredients, stirring it from east to west. It is said this was done to pay respect to the Magi‚Äôs journey.
Although many people do not partake in the following¬†tradition today, a coin (historically it was a silver sixpence) would be hidden somewhere in the pudding. It is believed that the person who found the coin would be brought wealth during the New Year.
The blazing brandy that is poured over top is supposed to be symbolic of Christ‚Äôs passion.
It is common to place a holly sprig on pudding as a final garnishment, and this exemplifies Christ‚Äôs Crown of Thorns.
Yield: 8 servings
You will need
Pudding Basin (1.5 L Capacity)
Large pan (must have enough depth so that ¬Ω the pudding basin can be submerged in water)
Sprig of holly
¬Ω cup raisins
¬æ cup sultanas
¬æ cup figs, chopped
¬º cup candied citrus peel, chopped
¬Ω cup glace cherries (candied cherries)
1/3 cup brandy
1 orange (for juice & zest)
tablespoons butter, unsalted, softened and beaten
¬æ cup muscovado sugar (very dark brown sugar)
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup self rising flour
¬æ cup breadcrumbs
1/8 cup almonds, ground
¬Ω cup brandy
Mix all the ingredients from Step 1 together in the pudding basin, cover it, and let it sit overnight.
Combine the additional ingredients from Step 2 with the fruit mixture.
Grease the sides of the pudding basin, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease a piece of aluminum foil and crimp it along the basin edge. Tie the string around the top of the bowl (secure it over the foil) so that the steam won‚Äôt escape while it‚Äôs cooking.
Place the basin in a large pan on the stovetop burner, and carefully pour boiling water into the pan until it rises halfway up the bowl. This will need to simmer for 4 hours. Be sure to add more water to the pan occasionally.
Remove from heat and allow it to cool. Replace the aluminum cover with a fresh sheet of greased foil, and store the pudding in a cool, dark place until Christmas Day.
Reheat the pudding in the same manner that it was originally cooked. It only needs to simmer in the water for 1 ¬Ω hours this time. Remove from heat, slide a knife around the basin edges, and flip the pudding onto a plate.
Warm the additional brandy and pour it into a metal ladle. Be sure the pudding plate is placed where you intend to serve your guests; it is always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher on hand. Then light the brandy in the ladle and pour the flaming liquid over the pudding. Once the fire has gone out, place the sprig of holly on top, and you may now dish up this holiday delight.
There are many variations of this recipe where different ingredients and cooking methods are used. If you have friends or family who live in the United Kingdom, why not pay them a visit this holiday season? They will surely have their own version of this pudding. Book your flights to London soon, as the holidays are almost here.
Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) will be coming soon, so it is time to place your shoes out with a bit of hay inside them, this is for Santa‚Äôs white horse, in preparation of his arrival. If you have been good, you will receive candy and gifts, but if you have been naughty, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter- Santa‚Äôs helper) may either chase you with a stick or place you in a sack to bring back to Spain. Spain? Yes, Sinterklaas lives in Spain, and he arrives December 5th via steamboat in Amsterdam to deliver gifts to all of Holland‚Äôs well behaved children; he is Amsterdam‚Äôs patron saint.
The Netherlands celebrate what is known as St. Nicholas Eve on December 5th. Children, as well as adults, partake in the gift giving, all the while playing little tricks on each other before one receives their Christmas goodie. Sometimes presents are hidden and clues need to be followed to locate them, or a huge box will be unwrapped only to discover there is a much smaller gift inside. The Dutch do celebrate Christmas on December 25th and 26th, however these days aren‚Äôt traditionally gift giving days so much as a time to spend with family and celebrate Christmas with good food and drinks. Let‚Äôs kick off this holiday season with some Dutch Christmas Cheer!
Boerenjongens (Dutch Brandy & Raisins) in English it translates to Farm Boys
Preparation & Cook Time: 25 minutes
(You will need 4 mason jars with lids.)
¬†1 cinnamon stick
¬†1 ¬º c brown sugar
¬†Zest of 1 lemon
¬†3 c white raisins or sultana
¬†1 tsp honey
¬†1 tsp vanilla extract
¬†1 c water
¬†4 c brandy (Dutch white grain brandy if possible)
Heat in a saucepan over medium the water and brown sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the lemon zest, raisins, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and clove. Continue heating over medium until the raisins have swelled and softened. Then, bring the mixture to a boil, and use a straining spoon to separate the raisins from the liquid. Ladle the raisins into the mason jars.
Continue heating the liquid until it thickens, and then remove the pan from heat to cool. Strain the remaining spices and lemon zest from the liquid, and pour the liquid into the mason jars. Divide the brandy evenly between all the jars. Secure the lids on each jar and shake. Place the jars in a cool, dark location to age a few weeks. This beverage will keep, if unopened, for about a year. Once the jar has been opened, it needs to be chilled.
Serve this fun holiday cordial up at your Christmas party, or tie a ribbon around the top of the jar and give it away as a gift. Boerenjongens will add a fun European flare to this year‚Äôs holiday party. To experience the real deal, begin planning a trip to Amsterdam for this December. 1-800-Fly-Europe offers the lowest rates for booking flights to the Netherlands or even flights to Barcelona this season.