Honest Cooking: Wintery Mash and Vegetables

Perfect warming comfort food with a perfect timing… it is freezing and snowing here in the Netherlands.

Stamppot
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Potatoes mashed together with one or more vegetables, known in the Netherlands as ‘stamppot’ (literally mash pot), is traditional Dutch winter food. Originally, everything was cooked together in one pot and then mashed together with a little milk and butter (or just with some water). This was convenient because when stamppot was ‘invented’ people usually cooked on their furnace, which had place for only one pot, although it is not completely clear how and when stamppot was invented. Stamppot was always combined with (quite fatty) meat and jus, the richness being a good thing for the hard working people that worked outdoors in the cold winter, like farmers. These people generally ate a hot lunch to energize them for the work to come, and then ate a bread meal in the evening. Nowadays, stamppot is still a well-loved dish in the Netherlands, but people tend to cook the potatoes, vegetables and meat separately to get a better result, and use less fat because they don’t need all the calories.

I think the reason why this dish is still well-loved lies in the many benefits it has. First of all, it is very easy. It does take some time, but making stamppot is something the poorest cooks can do. The ingredients are easily available and in season, quite cheap. By using other vegetables and other meat you get a different dish. And it is a healthy dish too… at least when you don’t make your mash with lots of butter and cream, drown it in puddles of fatty jus and have enormous pieces of fatty meat with it. Without all the fat it is still the perfect hearty, warming, comforting winter meal.

Combinations (always together with potatoes) for stamppot are:
– Stamppot curly kale with rookworst
– Stamppot sauerkraut with spek (usually raw, unsmoked, salted pork belly that is cooked together with the sauerkraut, but other kinds of bacon can be used as well)
– Hutspot (literally mixed pot, made with carrot and onion) with brisket
– Stamppot escarole with fried sausage or meat balls
– Hete bliksem (literally hot lightning; made with part sour and part sweet apples) with black pudding

Nowadays people have been thinking of many more varieties (like summer stamppot with rucola), but these are the traditional ones that are still eaten alot.

Jus is something stamppot cannot go without. Jus is based on the fat in which meat was fried and the juices that came out of the meat during cooking. In the Netherlands, usually a splash of water is added (sometimes wine or bouillon), the sticky bits from the bottom of the pan are stirred in, and then you have jus. Occasionally a roux is added and/or onions are fried together with the meat, which makes it more like the British/American gravy. And many people use ready made jus powder or concentrate, which just has to be dissolved in some hot water. This might not be the most culinary high standing practice, but actually it is my favourite way, since many meats don’t give jus, or not enough for the dish. And it also has that hearty umami flavour that is so difficult to obtain in standard Dutch jus. Traditionally you make a well in the middle of your mount of stamppot, in which you pour the jus.

Another thing stamppot cannot go without is rookworst. Traditionally rookworst is the accompaniment of stamppot curly kale, but it is also served with all the other stamppotten. Dutch people just love their rookworst! It is a sausage consisting of finely ground meat (although coarser varieties exist), spices and salt, which are stuffed in a casing and usually shaped in the form of an U. Although rookworst literally means smoked sausage, most rookworsten get their smoked flavours nowadays from added smoke aromatics added with the spices. Just as most rookworsten nowadays come precooked and vacuum packaged for long shelf life and easy preparation.

In this post I give you the recipe for stamppot escarole with jus, rookworst and fried pork belly. I generally have rookworst and fried pork belly with all the stamppot I eat, because I like them and I already have sausage in my paella and meatballs in my spaghetti, which are two dishes that are regularly on our menu. A well-loved alternative is mixing cubes of cheese and fried bacon bits through the stamppot. Stamppot escarole comes in two varieties: raw and cooked. The first one uses raw sliced escarole that is mashed through the potatoes, the second cooks the escarole first. Nowadays escarole from the supermarket is tender and has a mild flavour, so cooking it is really not necessary and will only water the stamppot down. The slight crispiness of the raw escarole gives the stamppot a nice bite.

Stamppot Escarole with Jus, Rookworst and Fried Pork Belly (serves 4)
A comforting, hearty, wintery dish.

1.5 kg Potatoes (suitable for mash)
400 ml Milk
Knob of butter
750 g Escarole
Salt, Pepper, Paprika powder
2 Slices pork belly
1 Rookworst

Optional: instant jus

Peel the potatoes, cut them in equal pieces and boil in just enough salted water to cover most of the potatoes until completely cooked. Depending on the size of the pieces this will be 10-15 minutes.
Prepare the rookworst as stated on the package. When it is raw it takes 20 minutes in barely simmering water, precooked versions are much faster (and can be prepared just before serving de stamppot).
Season the pork belly with salt, pepper and paprika powder, fry on medium heat until quite dark, turning regularly.
Wash the escarole. I find that it is easiest to wash it leave for leave, and then dry them in a salad centrifuge. Slice very thinly.
When the potatoes are cooked, pour of the water and off the heat leave them without a lid to steam, to get rid of the remaining water.
Prepare the instant jus, if using. Otherwise add a splash of water to the baking fat of the pork belly when they are ready, mixing well to incorporate all the sticky bits from the bottom of the pan.
Mash the potatoes with a masher or ricer, making sure no lumps remain.
Turn the heat on again, add the knob of butter and mix it trough the potatoes, then add the milk gradually while beating vigorously with a fork until the mash is light and fluffy. For me, this is the best way to make mashed potatoes.
Add the escarole, mix. Serve hot together with the jus, a piece of rookworst and a piece of pork belly.

Notes: Rookworst is not readily available abroad. Substitute with something like bockwurst, or serve your stamppot with the traditional fried sausages or meatballs.

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