So seeing that I’m of Dutch descent, my flatmates and Italian friends sometimes ask me to cook something that’s typically Dutch. I don’t usually comply to this request, and I suspect they don’t even really want to eat something Dutch, because I know what Italians are like – they’ll just complain about how it’s not Italian, give me snide comments about the order of the courses (“Oh really, salad before pasta?”) or use adjectives like ‘interesting’ or ‘very typical’ – in general, they’ll just diss the cuisine of my ancestors’ people. I have no intention to let my native country be ridiculed, so usually I say “sure, yeahhh… we can totally do that. This winter. Yeah…” and then I change the subject. I’m in Italy now, better be careful.
Recently I had a stroke of luck though. Blenderman kept asking when we were going to have sauerkraut, or crauti, as Italians call it, with sausages and mustard. I don’t know where he got that idea from, but I’m guessing it was probably a German. Not many people seem to know this, but like the Germans, the Dutch also tend to eat quite a lot of sauerkraut. They call it zuurkool, which makes a lot more sense: it translates to sour cabbage, which is a pretty apt description when you really think about it. Anyway, I decided this was a relatively safe bet for a Dutch dinner, as he’d specifically requested the main ingredient and there would be very little room for complaints. The preparation wasn’t quite as requested, instead I served it the Dutch way: with mashed potatoes, smoked sausage, bacon lardons and gravy. This stuff is so delicious that even an Italian is bound to appreciate it.
The preparation of zuurkool I’m describing here is one of many versions of a dish dish called stamppot – the Dutch make it quite a lot and it’s essentially mashed potatoes with some vegetable or other mixed in. It’s not a pretty sight, which is the reason you don’t normally find this stuff in restaurants. I think this contributes to the general obscurity of Dutch cuisine: Dutch food can be pretty delicious, but it’s so ugly that you don’t want anyone to see it. For this reason you only have it at home, when no one is looking. Well, have a look at this, and if you can get over its ugly face, have a shot. It’s really good.
For 4, you will need:
- 1 kg potatoes, ones that are suitable for mash
- about 700 gr of sauerkraut
- 2 large smoked sausages or any number of other sausages of your choice
- 250 gr bacon lardons
- some milk and butter, for the mash
If you want to make gravy, use whatever you normally use, or scroll down for a description of the mustard sauce I like to have with my zuurkool. If you’re making this, also make sure you have:
- all the bacon fat from your lardons
- one shallot
- a good spoonful of mustard (the smooth type)
- some vegetable stock
OK here we go!
Peel your potatoes, give them a rinse and boil them. Make mash, you know the drill. (If you don’t: add butter, milk, salt if you need to, mash those bitches up with a potato masher. Don’t have one? Use a fork. Good luck.) Whilst your potatoes are boiling, prepare your krauts. First of all, cut them up finely. No use having all these long sauerthreads killing your buzz. Once you’ve chopped it up into smaller bits, heat up your sauerkraut – you can do this in water, white wine or even apple juice. I prefer water, but it’s up to you. Chuck in a few juniper berries, put the whole bunch on low heat, and let it simmer for a while until it’s pretty hot.
While your tatties and crauti are boiling and/or simmering, get your meat on. If you’ve got some delicious smoked sausages, like we did last time, you can pop those in with the sauerkraut. If not, if you’ve got sausages that need frying, chuck them in with the bacon lardons – which you should pop in a frying pan right now to get them to the right degree of delicious crispiness.
As mentioned before, you can make the gravy any way you like. I made a mustard-based one, in part to humour Blenderman, in part because it’s goddamn delicious. Chop up a shallot, gently fry in as much of the lardon fat as you can possibly harvest, then add 1 or 2 tablespoons of smooth mustard and some vegetable stock or, in emergencies, even some of the potato boiling water. (Trust me.) Simmer until it’s all dense and delicious.
When your potatoes are mashed and your krauts are hot, remove the juniper berries, drain the krauts and chuck them in with the mash. Now mix all of it up so it’s an inseparable beautiful marriage of mash and kraut. Serve with sausage, bacon, gravy and a whole bunch of delicious beer. This shit will make you want to buy a wind jacket and move to the North of Europe.