As I keep mentioning, I recently returned to the Netherlands to go back to university for a year. I wasn’t at all happy about leaving Italy, or about living in the Netherlands in general, but thankfully I managed to surround myself with foreigners straight away, making the transition that little bit easier. It’s not even like I actively sought it out – most people on my course are not from around here, so I just ended up being one of the few Dutch people in my social circle.
Since most people I hang out with are here for the first time, sometimes I’m approached as if I were some kind of expert. However, the truth is I often don’t know the answers to people’s questions. It was so long ago that I last lived in this country, and quite a lot has changed in the time that I spent elsewhere. “How does insurance work here?” Beats me. “How long is maternity leave here?” Not my area, sorry. “So what’s the deal with the Dutch right-wing movement?” Fuck if I know.
The questions that I can always answer, are the ones about food. I love those. “What’s a typical Dutch dish?” It’s most definitely stamppot. There’s other ones, but this one’s the best, especially now that winter is coming. The name stamppot is a compound noun made up of the verb ‘stampen’, to mash, and the noun ‘pot’, which can refer to an actual pot or pan, but also to a dish of completely mixed up ingredients. I’ve talked about stamppot before, so you know the principle: mashed potatoes with a more or less leafy vegetable of your choice mixed in, usually served with smoked sausage, bacon, gravy, and something pickled (like gherkins or pickled onions).
I was asked about this dish by a vegetarian recently, which got me thinking. Most types of stamppot are terrible without meat. Of course there’s nothing worse than trying to substitute meat with fake meat – better find a way around it and think of something different altogether. So I came up with something, inspired by a dish someone described to me recently: endive stamppot. Stamppot needs four elements to be good: a hearty base of mashed potatoes, a slightly crunchy leafy vegetable, something sweet and tangy, and something really salty. Here, the sweet and tangy is represented by red onion in honey and balsamic vinegar, while the salty comes in the form of soft goats’ cheese. It’s delicious and you should totally try it.
For two, use:
- a generous half kilo of potatoes
- 2 or 3 endives
- 4 or 5 red onions
- 2 discs of soft goat’s cheese, probably amounting to about 150 gr
- 3 tbsp runny honey
- a dash of balsamic vinegar
- a large knob of butter, plus one more for frying your onions
- half a glass of milk
- black pepper
Peel your potatoes, cut them in cubes, and boil them in plenty of water with a generous sprinkle of salt.
Whilst your potatoes simmer away, peel your onions and slice them into rings – they don’t have to be rings, they can be half rings, but I just like the way rings look. Chuck them in a large frying pan with some butter and leave them to soften up on medium-low fire. Once they’re pretty soft, turn up the heat, then add the honey. Let it bubble for a wee bit, then sprinkle on the balsamic vinegar, enough to calm down your honey onions. Stir well for a minute, turn off the heat and keep for later.
Slice up your endive in bits around 1 cm wide. When you get nearer the base, you’ll have to pick out some of the hard middle bits that are actually the stem.
When your potatoes are pretty much done, chuck your endive in with them and blanche them for about one minute. Drain the lot, then throw them back into your pot. Add the butter and some milk, and a good dash of black pepper, then start mashing the shit out of it. Taste for salt, but be careful – the cheese will add a lot of salt, too.
So now you’re ready to serve up. Throw a dollop of endive stamppot on each plate, then top with the onions and the cheese. Optionally throw on some more black pepper. No longer traditional, but definitely very nice.