Tag Archives: Dutch

Sunday Smiles: It’s back!

Sunday SmilesSunday Smiles has somewhat fallen off the radar.  And by that I mean it has plummeted into the abyss of disorganisation and stayed there for the past two months.  Woops.  The original premise of Sunday Smiles was to give me a way to focus on the positives of the week – things that made me smile or laugh or that were simply just pretty – and aside from being disorganised, I guess I haven’t needed that so much over the last few months because I’m enjoying life in Leigh so much.  But I think it’s time to bring Sunday Smiles back,* which obviously has nothing to do with the afforded opportunity to procrastinate from writing my thesis and everything to do with all the sunrise, sunset and sea view photos that I keep posting to Instagram…

So, time to kick off another edition of Sunday Smiles:

  • You know those sunrise photos that I mentioned?  Well.  I’ve yet to get bored of the sunrises here and I’ve yet to cure my Instagram addiction…  So here’s Wednesday’s sunrise – I just can’t get over the colours:

How ridiculous are those colours?

  • One of my housemates and I have been going for walks around the Leigh area most evenings, resulting in some superb views (generally of the sea…) around sunset.  It’s difficult not to feel happy and calm here (I’ve been informed that I’ll revise my opinion in winter – we’ll see).

Super calm (it's not always like that…)

  • Ok, enough of how lucky I am at the moment, let’s move on to the cutest frog ever.  Seriously.  Since the desert rain frog (Breviceps macrops) sounds rather like a squeaky dog toy, it may also be the most ridiculous frog ever.
  • Speaking of cute, how utterly adorable is this little harbour seal pup (Phoca vitulina) on a mission?  That is one determined seal pup.  I totally want to try this next time I have a spare surfboard and GoPro camera lying around (so probably never).
  • A couple of my housemates and I went up to Waipu for St Patrick’s and on our way back we discovered a Dutch delicatessen in more or less the middle of nowhere (Kaiwaka to be precise).  The deli (which also sells delicious cheese by the way) sold Chocomel and my favourite hagelslag ever: chocolade vlokken.  I couldn’t contain my excitement and just had to buy some, resulting in quite possibly the best breakfast I’ve ever had, largely because, on the complete opposite side of the world from The Netherlands, it was so utterly unexpected.  Lekker!!  (PS – Chocolate sprinkles on toast is a legit breakfast.  Stop judging me.)

Mmmmmm lekker!!!

  • On a more cultured note, you may have read that Rembrandt’s The Night Watch has returned to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.  But have you seen the flashmob recreation of the painting to celebrate the fact that it’s a bit of a big deal?  Isn’t that an amazing idea?
  • And finally, we wouldn’t want things to get too high-brow around here, so we’ll finish off with this excellent take on a motivational poster, which came to me courtesy of Craig (source):

218 - Inspiration

So on that inspirational note, what made you smile this week?

*Even though this is actually going up on Monday, thanks to our Internet completely conking out last night…  Living in rural NZ does have the occasional downside.


Filed under Sunday Smiles

Pepernoten revisited!

Do you know what today is?  It’s Sinterklaas!  Which, unless you’re Dutch, have Dutch friends or have spent time in The Netherlands, probably doesn’t mean terribly much, and you can read a brief (and minorly sarcastic) explanation here.  I was born in The Netherlands and have lived there for a few years, and even when we didn’t live in NL we had Dutch friends, so Sinterklaas always featured on my calendar when I was growing up.  My favourite thing about Sinterklaas are pepernoten, which are little biscuits packed full of spices.  They’re amazing.  And they’re really difficult to find outwith NL.

I didn't really have any Sinterklaas-themed backgrounds to use, so I went for orange-y for Dutchness.  Flawless logic.

We left NL for the last time when I started uni in St Andrews, and luckily in my first year Keely sent me a massive packet of pepernoten.  But then her parents left NL.  Which meant that my only source of pepernoten was if I made them myself.  And so I turned to my recipe book which contains several different pepernoten recipes pilfered from various Dutch friends, and combined them.  I discovered that pepernoten are actually remarkably easy to make, although rolling all the little balls does make them a little time-consuming (so worth it though, and if you have the time, I’d definitely suggest doubling the recipe from the offset).

This bit takes a while.  But it's strangely therapeutic, too.

The most crucial part of pepernoten is the spice mix, and in NL you can buy a specific spice mix for them.  I obviously don’t have the special spice mix, but it’s easy enough to make using spices that you probably already have in your spice cupboard.  Incidentally, these are technically called kruidnoten, but most people just call them pepernoten, myself included (so no need to get all pernickety with me).  I make pepernoten every year now and attempt to spread general enthusiasm for Sinterklaas amongst whoever happens to be around to eat them.  Although I don’t go the whole hog and dress up as a Zwarte Piet and throw them at people…  (Although I’m sure the perplexed reaction would be highly entertaining, if awkward.)

Spices: the key bit of a biscuit that's all about… wait for it… spices.

This year my poor labmates fell victim to my general over-enthusiasm for Sinterklaas.  To be honest, they were pretty willing victims because all it involved was scoffing pepernoten.  Which is a remarkably easy task since they’re bite-sized and utterly moreish.  I’ve actually posted about pepernoten before, in my very second post.  I had a look at said post the other day and you can definitely  tell I was new to blogging.  Not that I’m any kind of expert now, but I like to think I’ve improved a little since then (although not in the conciseness department).  So I decided I’d repost the recipe, this time with slightly more detailed instructions, an indication of how many pepernoten it actually makes and perhaps a few better photos.

Those three pepernoten didn't last very long after the photo was taken…


Makes about 170 pepernoten
Adapted from various recipes in my recipe folder

I’d suggest just doubling the recipe from the offset because these are bite-sized and moreish – a dangerous combination!  Dark brown sugar would probably work well instead of light brown sugar, but would result in a slightly more pronounced treacle-y flavour, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Pepernoten are all about the spices, so feel free to be liberal with the quantities.  The aniseed is optional – I’m not a huge aniseed fan so tend to leave it out, because I know I won’t use the rest of the jar, but the aniseed flavour itself doesn’t come through very strongly.  These will keep well for a week or so in an airtight container (they would probably keep longer, but they’re unlikely to stay uneaten for more than a few days anyway).


175g light brown sugar
110g butter
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp black treacle
275g self-rising flour + ½ tsp baking powder OR 275g all-purpose flour + 3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp ground aniseed (optional)
½ tsp ground ginger
Pinch of ground coriander
2 pinches of salt


1.  Butter a couple of baking trays.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

2.  Add the brown sugar, cubed butter, milk and treacle in a saucepan.  Melt together on a low heat, stirring.  Remove from the heat once smooth.

3.  Mix together the flour, baking powder and spices in a large bowl.

4.  Once the treacle mixture has cooled a little (because enthusiastically plunging your hands into hot treacle just off the stove is not a smart idea.  Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything, ahem), pour it into the bowl and knead together until it forms a smooth, fairly firm dough, adding pinches of salt during kneading.

5.  Pinch of little bits of dough and roll them into small round balls about the size of a marble.  Place them on the prepared baking trays leaving about 1.5 cm space between them.  Bake for 12-15 mins until risen and golden (it’s normal if they look slightly cracked).  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely – they’ll harden as they cool (I find that the pepernoten tend to slip through the wires on my cooling rack, so I usually place one over the top of the other, but perpendicular so that the wires cross over each other and stop any pepernoten from falling through).

Eet smakelijk and happy Sinterklaas!

Pepernoten everywhere!


Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

For the love of butter

The random letter for this month’s AlphaBakes blog challenge, started by Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker (who is currently hosting) and Caroline at Caroline Makes is “B“.  Easy-peasy (lemon squeezy), I thought to myself when I read it, I can submit the blueberry jam that I’ve got planned.  It wasn’t until I was halfway through writing the blueberry jam post that I realised that jam doesn’t count as baked goods…  Not my brightest moment there.  As I mentioned in that post, if I’d been smart, I’d have bought twice as many blueberries and frozen half for baking.  But I wasn’t smart, and I didn’t.  So baking something with blueberries was out (although I have since found frozen blueberries at the supermarket).  With my not-so- genius plan scuppered, I wasn’t too sure what I was going to make for my entry.  And then, as I opened my fridge suddenly it hit me (almost literally as a pack of butter came tumbling out).

Anybody who has looked in my fridge can tell you that I usually have quite a reserve of butter.  At the moment I have just under 1.5kg stored in there.  1.5kg of butter for one person, I know.  I don’t usually stockpile quite as much, but butter is sold in 500g packs here and the supermarket is currently running a 2-for-1 promotion.  Between making quiche pastry on a very regular basis, general baking and occasionally (or not so occasionally…) things like buttercream icing, I do get through quite a bit of butter, so since I know it definitely won’t be going to waste, I’d quite like a pack of free butter, thank you very much.  I also seem to have a (slightly) irrational fear of running out of butter, and so I seem to stockpile it anyway (like I said, it doesn’t go to waste).  If there’s ever a butter shortage, I’ll probably make a fortune on the black market.  Anyway, I digress, so as a stray pack of butter tumbled out of my fridge, I realised that I should make boterkoek!!  I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before…  By the way, I think one of the AlphaBakes rules is that a standard ingredient doesn’t count as the letter (such as “flour” for F), so I know that butter probably doesn’t count, but since boterkoek obviously starts with a B, I think that this is still a valid entry (right?).

Perhaps I should back up a little and explain what boterkoek (pronounced botter-cook) actually is…  Boterkoek is a Dutch cake, best served alongside coffee.  The name translates as “butter cake” – butter makes up ⅓ of the total ingredients that go into this cake.  Now would probably be a good time to mention that this isn’t exactly the healthiest thing in the world.  In case you hadn’t realised that already.  If you’re on a diet, you should probably just stop reading.  Or stop your diet (clearly the better option).  I adore boterkoek – it might well be my favourite Dutch food ever – but you don’t come across it particularly often.  I’m not really sure why, perhaps because it’s not super healthy.  It’s a dense and compact crumbly cake, quite heavy and very buttery (you don’t say?).  It’s best eaten in small quantities and with a good, strong, black coffee to cut through the butteriness.  I don’t think I’m selling this very well.  It’s not like eating a stick of butter or anything, and although the texture is quite heavy, the flavour is fairly delicate (and yes, a bit buttery, but in a good way).  The best description that I can think of is that it’s just… lekker, but as that’s Dutch and this is an English blog, that doesn’t help much (unless you happen to speak Dutch).  Basically, it’s totally delicious, I promise!  One word of warning though: I find that it’s also a little bit addictive.  And by a little bit I mean a lot, because despite everything that I’ve just said, I can easily eat about a third of the cake in one go.  On its own, with no coffee to wash it down.  It went down a storm during our lab coffee break yesterday, with everybody helping themselves to seconds (thirds in some cases)… how’s that for a recommendation?


Makes about 20 slices
Recipe from one of my mum’s friend

This makes a perfect coffe-time treat, and is incredibly easy and quick to throw together (and you probably already have all the ingredients), although it does take a while to cool.  It’s best served in small portions as it is quite rich – people can always help themselves to more if they wish!  Adding the egg makes the boterkoek more moist (and delicious), but apparently you can choose to omit it (though I’ve never tried without the egg).  If you choose not to use the egg, then brush the top of the cake with a little bit of milk instead.  The boterkoek will keep for a few days at room temperature in an airtight container.


300g all-purpose flour
300g caster sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
300g unsalted butter
1 egg


1.  Line a 20 x 25 cm baking tin with baking parchment (lining the tin means that it’s much easier to lift the cake out once it’s baked.  You can choose not to line the tin because there’s enough butter in the recipe for the cake not to stick, but it will probably get a little messy).  Pre-heat the oven to fan 175°C.

2.  Add the flour, sugar and vanilla sugar to a large mixing bowl.  Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the bowl.  Rub together with chilled hands (or cut through with two knives, but with your hands is better – and more fun!) to form a crumbly mixture that starts to come together.

3.  Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl, and add ½ of the egg to the butter mixture (yes, ½.  I know that’s a stupid amount, but if you add any more, the dough will be too soggy and wet).  Set the remaining egg aside.  Knead together to form a slightly sticky dough (there are a couple of photos of the dough at the end if you’re unsure).

4.  Transfer the dough to the lined baking tin and press it down evenly across the tin (make sure to get it into the corners and everything – it won’t spread too much, and shouldn’t be too thick or it won’t bake properly) and so that the top is smooth.  Brush the top of the cake with the remaining egg and score pretty patterns across the top using a fork.  Bake for about 35 mins until wonderfully golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

5.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 30-35 mins in the tin before lifting out and transferring it to a wire rack to cool fully before cutting up and serving.


I’ve been asked to put up a photo of the dough before baking – it should come together as a slightly sticky dough, but still a bit crumbly when you handle it:

When you transfer it to the lined baking tin, press it into the edges so that it’s an even thickness across the whole baking tray.  Make sure to get it right into the corners and smooth the top (I haven’t quite finished with the dough below, but you get the idea) before brushing with the egg and scoring with a fork, and then popping into the oven.


Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods


It’s December!  All things related to Christmas are now allowed and I’m no longer a total Scrooge.  But before we get to Christmas, there’s Sinterklaas…

It’s actually quite apt that my first proper recipe blog post is about a Dutch speciality – I was born in The Netherlands, you see.  We moved away before I turned two, so I don’t remember a great deal, but we were back for a few months when I was six and back again for my last four years of Secondary School.  And wherever we’ve lived there have been lots of Dutch people around.  So despite not actually being Dutch, Sinterklaas has always featured on my calendar.

According to the Dutch tradition, Sinterklaas (or St Nicholas) lives in Spain but comes to The Netherlands to celebrate his name day, accompanied by some of his helpers, the notorious Zwarte Piets, who basically just cause mayhem (I was terrified of them when I was six).  On the 5th of December, families will gather together and hand out a few presents that are cleverly wrapped up, often accompanied by a poem about the person receiving the gift.  It’s a whole ritual, and it’s a lot of fun!

In the lead up to Sinterklaas, children leave their shoes out every evening in the hope that they will be filled with biscuits by Sinterklaas through the night.  Well, I say children, but my Dad was always just as enthusiastic as I was about leaving his shoes out…  Pepernoten (loosely translates as “spice nuts”) are one of the traditional biscuits that are distributed at this time of year.  Of course, in The Netherlands, you can buy pepernoten in near-industrial quantities.  In the UK, you cannot.  Not even in small quantities.  I love pepernoten, and I have so many happy memories associated with them, so there’s really only one option…. To make them.


I should warn you in advance – these take forever to make.  But they are so worth it!  I don’t particularly like aniseed, so I never put any in and they come out just fine.  Also, this recipe is all about the flavours of the spices, so I tend to be quite liberal when it comes to quantities…


175g brown sugar
3 tbsp milk
110g butter
2 tbsp treacle
275g self-rising flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp allspice
Pinch of ground coriander
½ tsp ground aniseeds (Optional)
2 pinches of salt


1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Pour the milk, treacle, brown sugar and butter into a small saucepan.  Place on a very low heat and stir until it becomes a smooth mix.

3.  Mix the spices together with the flour and baking powder in a large bowl.

4.  Pour the contents of the saucepan into the bowl and knead until it forms a firm and smooth dough (be careful at this point – I stupidly forgot that the treacle mix would be hot earlier, and enthusiastically plunged my hands right in.  Oops.)  Add pinches of salt during kneading.

5.  Make small round balls of dough (a bit bigger than a marble) and place them on a buttered baking tray.  Make sure that they are quite well spaced out in case they decide to melt into each other.

6.  Bake for about 12-15 mins, then allow them to cool and harden for about 1 ½ hours.


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Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods