Tag Archive for Comfort food

Dutch Food: rice porridge with brown sugar and butter

Rice porridge, or rice goo (rijstebrij) as it is sometimes called, is a traditional Dutch dessert. Rice slowly cooked in milk with some vanilla, sprinkled with brown sugar and topped with a pat of butter. Sometimes a sprinkle of cinnamon, or a handful of raisins is added. Another possibility is to serve it with a berry (or other fruit) sauce. Creamy, warm and soothing, but definitely not light. That it was filling was perfect in the old days, when people did hard physical labour, and weren’t eating much fat and sugar in the rest of the day. Nowadays, it usually is a bit too heavy. Therefore I like to serve it after a light soup on cold days (together making a good-sized meal), or I make the amount below for double the amount of people, making the portion size smaller.
Swapping some milk for cream, and adding egg yolks at the end are generally not things done in the Netherlands as far as I know, but I have seen it in foreign recipes. It makes a richer pudding, but also makes it more heavy, so I would definitely downsize the portions.
I use special dessert rice for this dish, which cooks a lot faster than standard rice, but I know that this isn’t available abroad. Back in the old days, this special rice wasn’t available either, so you can make this dish perfectly fine with standard white rice. Alternatively you could use risotto rice or sushi rice, but I’m not quite sure what the right proportions are and how long to cook it. Even with the instructions below, it can happen that your rice stays quite wet even though it is already cooked, or gets quite dry but isn’t cooked yet, because every rice is different. Luckily, soupy rice porridge is still delicious, and when it gets dry, you can add a bit more milk.
As a variation, you can pour the rice porridge in ramekins or glasses, smooth the top and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour to cool down and firm up. These rice puddings are delicious served with a fruit compote.

Rice Porridge with Brown Sugar and Butter

Rice porridge (serves 4)
1 litre milk
200 g dessert rice
2 tsp vanilla extract
brown sugar and butter to serve

Mix the milk, rice and vanilla in a pan with a thick bottom. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 12 minutes, or until the rice is soft and most of the milk is absorbed. Stir regularly to prevent catching. Serve sprinkled with the sugar and a pat of butter on top.

To make this dish with “normal” white rice, use 150 g per 1 litre milk and cook for 1 hour on very low heat.

Chicken and Barley Soup

A deliciously soothing and warming soup. It does take a while to prepare, but it keeps well, so make a large pot and freeze portions for later. And of course, there are few things that smell better than a pot of chicken stock bubbling away on the stove, or onions that are gently caramelizing.

Chicken and Barley Soup

Chicken and Barley Soup (serves 4 + leftovers)
Adapted from “Leon – Ingredients & Recipes”

2 chicken legs
2 carrots
2 small onions, peeled
2 sticks of celery
1 leek, washed
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 bay leaves
a few whole peppercorns
a few pieces of mace
a few sprigs of thyme
a few sprigs of flat leaf parsley, with stalks
150 g pearl barley
250 g button mushrooms
salt and pepper
Optional: butter and/or olive oil (use if your chicken did not release enough fat)
Optional: crusty bread to serve the soup with

Chop 1 carrot, 1 onion, the celery and the green part of the leek coarsely. Smash 3 of the garlic cloves. Crush the peppercorns coarsely. Cut the stalks from the parsley, set the leaves aside for later. Remove the stalks from the mushrooms, set the tops aside for later. Throw in a stock pot, together with the bay leaves, mace and thyme. Heat a frying pan and place the chicken legs in it. Fry, turning regularly, until the skin is crisp and brown all around. Reserve the pan and the fat that came out of the chicken skin for later. Place the chicken legs on top of the vegetables in the stock pot, add 1.5 liter water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about an hour.
Meanwhile, dice the second carrot and the second onion. Thinly slice the white part of the leek. Finely mince the 3 garlic cloves that were left. Pour half of the chicken fat into a (sauce)pan (large enough to accommodate the stock later on) and heat. Add the onion and a generous sprinkle of salt, fry until soft and translucent. Then add the carrot, leek and garlic. Sauté on low heat until very soft and golden. This will take about 30 minutes.
Take the chicken from the stock and set aside to cool. Pour the stock through a strainer into the pan with the caramelized vegetables, discard the vegetables from the stock. Add the pearl barley and leave to simmer for another hour.
Meanwhile, slice the mushrooms thinly and chop the parsley leaves finely. Heat the pan you used for the chicken with the reserved fat in it and fry the mushrooms until they are golden. Pick the meat of the chicken bones and chop it into pieces (discard the skin if you prefer). Check if your barley is tender, if not cook for a bit longer, if it is, add the mushrooms, parsley and chicken to the soup. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to adjust it. If the soup is a bit thick (can happen especially with the leftovers) you can add some extra water. Serve hot.

Warm apples with vanilla sauce, ice cream and chantilly cream

As with a lot of dishes, I got the idea for it when I saw something like it on the menu somewhere, and thought it was a great idea to try and make at home. Warm and sticky apples, a lovely rich vanilla sauce, contrasting cold vanilla or cinnamon ice-cream, finished with a generous dot of chantilly cream: a big bowl of comfort, indulgence and deliciousness. I cheated by buying a good ice-cream (my ice cream machine and I still don’t get along very well), but if you want to make it yourself, this is the thing to start with because it takes the longest. Next, make the vanilla sauce. You could either make a custard, or a pastry cream with a bit more milk to make it thinner. The custard will be thinner/runnier than the pastry cream, it is up to you which you prefer. Then, prepare your apples. Choose a variety of apple that will holds its shape when heated, I’ve done it successfully with jonagold, elstar, pink lady, royal gala, braeburn, jazz and granny smith, so basically it will work with most apples. This is a great way to use up apples that are a bit over their prime. Peel and core, then slice them either in wedges or in cubes. Heat a frying pan, throw in the apples, and fry until the apples have a nice golden colour. Stir regularly, because they tend to catch and burn quite quickly. Turn the heat down to soften the apples a bit further, and add a knob of butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar to make them nice and sticky. Keep cooking until the apples are tender and the sugar has dissolved. Meanwhile, make the chantilly cream by whipping cream with some sugar (1-2 tbsp for 250 ml) and vanilla extract (1/2 tsp for 250 ml) or seeds from a vanilla bean (1/2 bean per 250 ml). Serve by scooping the apples into bowls, and topping them with a pouring of vanilla sauce, a scoop of ice-cream and a dollop of chantilly cream. Enjoy!

Spaghetti with herbed cream cheese, spinach and bacon

A very simple, but satisfying pasta dish. Make this when you are in a hurry and need something comforting to eat. Also a classic for students on tight budgets. It is usually made with freezer spinach, but I like to use fresh spinach because freezer spinach is horribly overcooked and mushy. You could use chicken instead of bacon to make the dish a bit lighter.

Spaghetti with herbed cream cheese, spinach and bacon (serves 2)

200 g spaghetti
150 g bacon, cut into lardons
150 g herbed cream cheese (like boursin or philadelphia)
300 g spinach, washed

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add salt liberally. Add the spaghetti and bring the water back to the boil. Stir after 1-2 minutes to make sure the spaghetti isn’t sticking. Cook until your preferred done-ness (the times on the package are an indication, but tend to be a bit on the long side).
Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a dry pan on medium heat until it releases its fat, and the bits are golden and slightly crisp. Discard (some of) the bacon fat if you want (keep it to fry an egg or some bread in). Add the cheese and let it melt on low heat. It might curdle a bit. Then add the spinach (in portions if necessary), place a lid on the pan and cook until just wilted. Add the spinach and mix well. Serve immediately.

Dutch food: poffert

Poffert is a traditional regional dish from the province of Groningen (where I come from), although a similar dish can be found in other parts of the Netherlands. It is a cross between a steamed pudding, bread and bundt cake/gugelhopf and is very filling, especially because it was served with a generous pat of butter and lots of brown sugar or stroop. That was why it usually was eaten as a main, and in winter. It was often cooked when the whole family needed to work on the land, and there was no time to cook. The batter was made, placed it in the pan and a few hours later there was food, while she could do other things. By richer people it sometimes was eaten as dessert or snack, and nowadays it is more of a special treat. But you know that a dish is popular when there is a a small village (about 15 houses, 3 farms and a small shipyard) named after it: de Poffert is located between Hoogkerk and Enumatil. The village was named after the tavern called de Poffert, that was there because de Poffert used to be an important quay for tug-boats, especially during the sugar beat campaign in fall (there was, and is, a sugar refinery in Hoogkerk). The captains used to eat loads of things made with flour, hence the name of the tavern.

Real poffert is cooked au bain marie in a special ‘pofferttrommel'(literally poffert bin), a bundt shaped pan with a lid. Some people line the tin with slices of bacon before filling it with batter, to prevent sticking. Nowadays people often cook the poffert in an oven instead of au bain marie (in my opinion you make something else than poffert in that case), and use other kinds of dried fruit as well, or even make a savoury variant with bacon and smoked sausage. It is not necessary to have the special ‘pofferttrommel’ to make poffert, you can also use a heat-proof bowl or a bundt pan that you cover with aluminium foil or baking paper secured with a bit of kitchen rope. There are even people that use a small pan that fits inside the larger pan.

Poffert is normally eaten with (molten) butter and brown sugar or stroop, but you could also use apple butter instead of the stroop. Some people serve theirs with cinnamon and brown sugar, but I think poffert does need the moisture from butter or something else. Not traditional, but delicious options are a splash of cream, vanilla sauce or toffee sauce.


Poffert (for a bowl or tin that can hold 2 liter, serves 4 generously)

250 g flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast
scoop of sugar
100 g raisins
200 ml lukewarm milk
1 egg
accompaniments of choice

Mix all the ingredients to form a nice batter. Pour it into your pofferttrommel or the tin/bowl you are going to use. Place into the large pan with warm water. Place the lid on top and leave to rise for an hour. Then turn on the heat and cook the poffert in about an our. Control with a sateh stick if the poffert is ready, the stick should come out clean. Serve warm with your accompaniments of choice.

Note: you can also make poffert with self-raising flour (quite a luxurious variant) instead of yeast, and sometimes half wheat and half buckwheat flour was used.

Single serve microwave chocolate chip cookie

I’m not really trustworthy around chocolate chip cookies. I am a healthy eater and usually have enough self-control to not over-eat, but chocolate chip cookies are the exception to the rule. I just cannot stop after one cookie. The solution: I don’t buy the cookies, so I cannot eat them. But, some days you just need something soothing and comforting and chocolaty…. Buying cookies then ensures you eat them all. Baking something (kinda) healthy isn’t a solution either, because you want it now, and not after the time it makes to mix up a batter and bake it. The solution: make a single serve microwave chocolate chip cookie. It is fast to make, indulgent, oozing with chocolate, deliciously chewy, and will calm down your cravings.

Single serve microwave chocolate chip cookie (1 cookie)
From Yummy magazine

1,5 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil
2 tsp milk
a few drops of vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp chocolate chips (plain, milk or white)

Mix sugar and brown sugar. Add milk, vanilla and salt, mix again. Add flour, mix until just incorporated. Then fold in the chocolate chips. Form into a cookie on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on medium for 1 minute, then check for doneness. Continue cooking in 10 second intervals until desired consistency is achieved. The exact time you need to cook the cookie for is highly dependant on your microwave, it took mine almost 2 minutes before I had a nice, chewy cookie. The cookie will continue to cook a little further when you take it from the microwave. It will also be very, very hot, so leave to cool for a bit before eating.

Simple pasta

On some days you just don’t feel like cooking, while still wanting something comfortable and flavoursome to eat. This is the perfect dish for that situation: it is fast and easy to cook and the bold flavours make it a great pick-me-up. Also great as a hangover breakfast/lunch, and for very hot days, when it is too hot to do much cooking involving heat.

Pick-me-up spaghetti (serves 2)

200 g spaghetti
1 can of anchovies on olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic
a sprinkle of chilli flakes
1/2 lemon (both peel and juice)
10 g flat-leaf parsley
Optional: some parmezan

Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add salt liberally. Put the spaghetti in and cook until al dente (or to how you prefer your pasta).
Pour the olive oil from the anchovies in a small frying pan. Chop the anchovies and finely chop the garlic. Add to the oil, together with the sprinkle of chilli flakes. Place on very low heat and cook, while stirring regularly, until it starts to sizzle, the anchovies are dissolved in the oil and the garlic doesn’t smell raw any more. Take care not to overheat it/cook it too long, because this will burn the garlic, which will make it bitter and icky. Turn off the heat. Chop the parsley and add it to the mixture, together with the grated lemon peel and the lemon juice.
Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and mix well. Finish with a sprinkle of parmezan, if you like. Serve.

Nacho Chips with Cheese, Mince and Vegetables

This is a bit of a pseudo-Mexican dish. Almost certainly people in Mexico don’t eat something like this (or do they?), but in the Netherlands, this is what people think is Mexican. But what matters is that it is a very tasty dish. Crunchy, salty nacho chips with lots of gooey molten cheese, combined with a spicy mix of mince and vegetables. Perfect comfort food!

Nacho Cheese

Nacho Chips with Cheese, Mince and Vegetables (2 generous servings)

1 bag plain nacho chips (150 gram)
200 g grated cheese

1 tbsp olive oil
300 g mince (half pork, half beef is what I like to use)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 tsp sambal (I use sambal badjak, add more if you like it spicy)
1 beef stock cube
1 tsp paprika powder (or use half normal and half smoky if you have it)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1 paprika, in cubes (colour doesn’t matter)
250 g mushrooms, sliced
1 small tin of corn

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the mince and onion, fry on high heat until the meat is browned and the onion is soft. Add the garlic, sambal, stock cube and spices. Fry for a minute until fragrant. Then add the paprika, fry until soft. Add the mushrooms, fry until soft. Add the corn, fry until warm.
Meanwhile, place the nacho chips into an oven dish, sprinkle the cheese on top and place in the oven until warm and the cheese is molten and gooey. Or if you like, leave it a little longer until the cheese gets crispy bits. Serve together with the mince-vegetable mix.
Variation: scoop the mince-vegetable mix in an oven dish, spread the nacho chips on top and sprinkle the cheese over; then place the whole thing in the oven, instead of serving it separate.

Beef stew

The weather is turning cold again, and that means that is time to make wintery stews again. Perfect for a lazy sunday afternoon, prepping it bit by bit, letting the delicious smells scent your house, ending with a delicious, comforting meal. The great thing of this recipe is that it makes quite a lot, so you can spend one relaxed afternoon chopping and cooking and reheat the leftover portions (they freeze perfectly) on days that you really need a comforting meal like this, but don’t have the time to make it. It is delicious eaten with rice or mashed potatoes, and serve with braised red cabbage or brussel sprouts to make your meal complete. You can also add browned baby onions and mushrooms the last 20 minutes of cooking.

Beef Stew

Beef stew (serves 8)
Adapted from Great British Chefs

1 kg of braising beef, in chunks
olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
140 g tomato paste
350 ml of beef stock
750 ml red wine
6 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 150C.
Heat some olive oil in a heavy, oven-proof pot on high heat. Brown the beef chunks in portions, only adding enough to just cover the base of the pan (otherwise it will not brown nicely). Add a little extra olive oil when the pan gets dry. The beef should get quite dark brown to give the most flavour. Set aside the beef.
In the same pan, heat some olive oil and add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Saute on medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the tomato paste and fry a little longer (this will sweeten the tomato by getting rid of some of the harsh acids in the puree). Add the browned beef (and its juices) back in, add the stock, red wine, thyme, bay leaves and pepper. Stir well and place the pan in the oven. Cover partly with a lid. Stew for 2-4 hours, checking occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan and adding a little more water if necessary (the meat should be covered). Don’t add to much extra water at the end of cooking, you want the sauce to thicken slightly.
Serve with side dishes of your preference and/or scoop into freezer containers and leave to cool before placing in the freezer.

Vanilla pudding

Sometimes you feel like having a dessert, but you don’t want to stand in the kitchen for a long time, but you don’t want to have anything ready-made too. Then this vanilla pudding is a perfect solution. It comes together in a breeze, uses only pantry ingredients and is lovely creamy and satisfying, so perfect for weekday cravings.

I’ve tried many vanilla pudding recipes, but this one is certainly the best. I like to eat my pudding warm, when it is not set yet, but you can leave it to cool and eat it when it has a more pudding-like texture. It is basically the same thing as pastry cream, so it works well as a filling for cakes, choux, sweet bread and danish too. Oh, and use real vanilla (or vanilla extract) for this recipe, it really tastes better!

Vanilla pudding (1 serving)
Slightly adapted from “Advanced bread and pastry – Michel Suas”

140 ml milk
8 g sugar
10 g cornstarch (maizena in Dutch)
30 g sugar
1 egg yolk
18 g butter

Mix the milk, first measuring of sugar and vanilla together in a pot and bring slowly to the boil (to have time to measure and prepare the other ingredients).
Mix the cornstarch and second measuring of sugar in a bowl. Add the egg yolk and mix well, but do not incorporate any air. By mixing the sugar and cornstarch together first before adding the egg yolk you make the risk of getting lumps of cornstarch smaller.
Pour one third of the boiling milk onto the egg yolk mixture and mix well. Pour this into the rest of the boiling milk and warm through on low heat until it is thickened. Keep stirring constantly (I like to use a whisk) to prevent getting scrambled eggs. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter. Keep stirring until the butter is incorporated, then pour the pudding into a clean bowl (or re-use the bowl you used previously).
Eat warm or leave to cool/set. Cover the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. The recipe can easily be multiplied to make pudding for more people.