Shall We Go for a Borrel?

gezellig borrel

‘Gezellig’ Borrel (Drinks)

It’s the end of a week of hard work, and your colleages suggest to go for a “borrel”. You might wonder what they are inviting you for.

They are inviting you for a drink after work. Usually a local “brown cafe” a traditional Dutch bar is a favourite location. This is the perfect place to relax and have a drink. Of course it could also be another local bar. As one of the important criteria is that the cafe is walking distance.

The “borrel” is a great way to interact with you colleages outside the walls of work. A casual interaction where you can enjoy a nice beer or wine at the same time. Depending on the size of the group, one person gets the first round of drinks at the bar, to be followed by the next. Or a tab can be started where everyone pays for their own drink afterwards.

While you are enjoying a drink and conversing you might be getting a little peckish. Luckily there are some great snacks to accompany your drink. Appropriately called “borrelhapjes” snacks to enjoy during the borrel. There are a few typical snacks you have to try!



The perfect snack is the beloved “bitterbal” or “bitterballen” (plural).  This is ragout covered with breadcrumbs and then fried.  Served with a side of mustard. This is just perfect to eat with your beer or wine. Where it used to be that cold snacks such as cheese or liverwurst were popular now a larger variety of fried snacks are popular. Such as cheese sticks, vlammetjes and mini frikandels. These are meat or cheese filled pastries.

And now you know! Say yes: and enjoy a few hours with your colleages before heading home. Just one word of advice: be careful how many drinks you have as you still have to work with them the following workday! 😉


 BY TAMAR DOVLATYARIAN, in-house food writer at Orange & Co.


Delicious Stamppot!

It is cold and rainy, and you feel like having food that will warm the soul. The perfect comfort food is stamppot. But what is stamppot? Literally it is mash in a pot, but in real life it is a Dutch favourite!

The main ingredient is potato; this item has been part of a Dutch everyday meal for centuries. Usually during the winter there was not much else available except onions, carrots and cabbages and potatoes, and we believe this is how the idea of stamppot was created. People started experimenting with mashing different greens and vegetables through their regular fair of potatoes, to create a nutritious meal that is accessible for every budget and quick to prepare.

Nowadays, several varieties remain popular as an everyday meal. The most common varieties include mash with kale (boerenkool stamppot), mash with endive (andijvie stamppot) and mash with carrots and onions (hutspot). Every stamppot has an accompanying meat and most importantly every stampot needs gravy (jus). A common expression is stamppot with a hole (kuiltje) for the gravy.

For example a typical meat with Boerenkool is rookworst, a think smoked sausage. While Andijvie stamppot is commonly eaten with little pieces of bacon, and hutspot comes with a nice piece of brisket.

There is one more popular stamppot. It is called sauerkraut mash (zuurkool stamppot). Here the sauerkraut is prepared separate from the potatoes. Once the 2 components are ready a layer of sauerkraut is spread across the bottom of an oven dish and the topped with a layer of mashed potatoes. This is then covered in grated cheese before spending some more time is the oven.

Traditional Gehaktballen (Meatballs) with Stamppot (taken from Knorr)

Traditional Gehaktballen (Meatballs) with Stamppot (taken from Knorr)

How to make your own heartwarming Dutch favourite?

You start by boiling potatoes, and once ready you mash them with some butter, milk, salt and pepper. Then add a winter vegetable of your choice. Anything goes; cabbage, kale, carrot, onion.

In case of a tougher vegetables such as carrot, you need to cook this beforehand. And mash the two together. Depending on the stamppot of your choice you can serve it with little pieces of bacon, rookworst or brisket (klapstuk).

A wonderful warming one pot dish for you and your family to enjoy in the colder months (it is possible in the summer too!) of the year.


Time for a Pot of Mussels (Mosselen)!

Mussels from Zeeland (Taken from

Mussels from Zeeland (Taken from

Catching mussels is a Dutch trade since the 19th century. Especially, the waters of the Oosterschelde River and Wadden Sea are the perfect place to grow and catch mussels.

A mussel starts out its life as a small seed. This mussel seed is found naturally in the Wadden Sea and Oosterschelde. In the Wadden Sea it enjoys the wealth of plankton provided by the changing tides. However, it is also a tougher climate for them to settle,  whilst in the Oosterschelde they thrive on the slow current and stable ground to lay their bearings. As mussels need to hold on the something in order to grow, some more high-tech mussel farms use ropes to simulate rocks and weeds used by mussels in nature to hold on to.

After holding on for two years the mussels are about 6-7 cm and big enough to be harvested.  This happens from mid-July until mid-April, when this lovely soft and savoury delight is at its best. Mussels are not only delicious they are also rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and iron.  Another advantage is that they only have 1% fat. This means it is a very healthy choice that can be enjoyed regularly.

How do we eat them in The Netherlands?


A Traditional Pot of Mosselen. (Picture from

In the past, the mussels season tended to be during the months that end with ‘ber’, hence from September to December. These days however, they can be available throughout the year. Traditionally, they are prepared by slicing some onions, leek and celery and putting them altogether in a large pot with a bay leaf. Stir them around for some light caramelisation. Then add pepper and some liquid, which can be wine, beer or good stock or water. Now put in the mussels and let them steam for about ten minutes on high heat. The dish is ready when all the mussels have opened up.

Serve them with ‘frites’ (french fries) and some bread to dip in to the juice and a nice chilled white wine or beer.

Or try a less traditional way and bake or fry, marinate or bread the mussels.

Tip: If you find a (slightly) open mussel before cooking them, tap it firmly and see if it slowly closes. Throw the ones that do not close away.

BY TAMAR DOVLATYARIAN, in-house food writer at Orange & Co

A Dutch Favourite: the Pancake (Pannenkoeken)


Just like the French crepe or American pancake, the Dutch pancake is yet again a different mix of flour, milk and eggs. This more robust version of the delicate French crepe is called ‘pannenkoek’ in Dutch.  Not only is it eaten as any meal of the day, breakfast, lunch or dinner, the pancake is enjoyed by all; from the smallest kid to the grey-haired generation.

But what makes this food so popular? First of all it is easy to make, you do not need many ingredients and it is affordable for everyone. The last point especially appeals to the Dutch who love a good bargain or saving. Secondly, it is delicious! It doesn’t matter when you eat it or which toppings you add.

Most commonly, pancakes are eaten with a thick dark brown molasses type of syrup or ‘stroop’ in Dutch, that just drips all over your lips and your plate while you eat. Or try a big dusting of icing sugar. You know you have put enough when the air around your pancake is coloured white. For lunch or dinner try a savoury pancake with melted cheese, bacon or both, or another interesting Dutch favourite, which is to combine both syrup and bacon together!

There are even restaurants dedicated to serving pancakes. Usually located on a boat or in an old building these pancake restaurants are real family restaurants. They push the limits of pancake flavours. From simple apples and sugar to mincemeat, vegetables and sauces. Cooked to order so that everyone can have their own favourite.

Go ahead and pick-up a pan or let us take you into a pancake restaurant nearby and experience the Dutch pancake!

BY TAMAR DOVLATYARIAN , in-house food writer at Orange & Co

Vlaggetjesdag: the Start of the Herring Season


Neuwe Haring served with Onions and Gherkins (Picture taken from

First written about in the 18th century this wonderful tradition of celebrating the first herring was not made official until 1947. Since then every year thousands of people come to the harbour of Scheveningen on Vlaggetjesdag (Flag Day) to enjoy the first herring (“Hollandse Nieuwe Haring”) of the season.

Visitors of Vlaggetjesdag can see off the ships heading out to catch herring for the new season, but also older boats that are decorated with lots of flags. Actually for a day visitors get to experience how daily life was for the local fisherman of Scheveningen.  This means visitors can see old fishing boats, participate in old Dutch children’s games, enjoy demonstrations of old crafts, watch famous chefs at work, and enjoy the many colourful traditional costumes.

Most importantly during Vlaggetjesdag you can try out this lovely fish. Did you know that last year about 85 million of these delicacies were consumed in The Netherlands? Herring is most commonly eaten raw with some chopped onions and a slice of pickle. Or you could stick to a more old-fashioned way of eating them after they have been salted. Another traditional ways to prepare this Dutch favourite is by pickling it in vinegar (a so-called “rolmops”), or smoking it. Smoked herring has a very distinct red colour.

To conclude the opening of the season every year the first barrel of herring is sold at an auction and the proceeds are always donated to charity. For everyone who missed this typically Dutch feast, please join in next year and experience the fun. Or head out to your local fishmonger for a taste of this celebrated fish!


Eating herring the  traditional Hague way!

Eating herring the traditional Hague way!

Celebrating with the fishermen in Scheveningen

Vlaggetjesdag: Visitors meet fishermen in Scheveningen

Season of the Queen: the Asparagus

Asperges: Dutch Gold

Nothing beats seasonal vegetables! And spring time is the perfect time for this Queen amongst vegetables: the asparagus. Usually the first asparagus is harvested on the second Thursday of April, on a day called Sint Jan’s day. However a cold winter can delay this date as temperature is very important and the ground should reach at least 12˚ for a couple of days before the asparagus are ready to be harvested.

Asparagus were introduced in The Netherlands at the beginning of the 19th century; especially the southern provinces of Limburg and Brabant had the perfect soil to get started. Even now a days most asparagus farmers are still growing this amazing vegetable in the sandy loam ground of the south.

The two most common types of asparagus are green and white asparagus. A more obscure type is the purple asparagus. Originally from New-Zeeland and Australia, this purple asparagus is cultivated by several Dutch producers since 2007. This purple asparagus is much sweeter and can be eaten raw.

Green asparagus are grown above ground and have a more defined flavor. They also have more of a crunch to them. White asparagus on the other hand are grown under a bed of soil to prevent the light to penetrate, as the slightest ray of light can discolor them. To have the highest quality asparagus it should be as white as possible. The taste of white asparagus is more delicate and smooth; it could almost be called creamy.

In addition to great flavour attributes, asparagus have been popular for the health benefits ever since the time of the Greeks. It is full of vitamins and fibers and low in calories. It has been said that Asparagus are beneficial for people with heart conditions, kidney problems and fragile bones.

Asparagus are a very tasty vegetable and do not need much to make them shine. A simple roasted green asparagus with a sprinkle of coarse salt is already a treat. However, the Dutch traditional way of eating asparagus is to boil white asparagus and serve them with a crumbled boiled egg, ham, hollandaise sauce and parsley. To turn it from a starter into the main meal, usually boiled potatoes are added. This preparation appears on many menus during the short asparagus season.

In reality there are so many dishes you could prepare with this royal vegetable. From soups, quiches to risottos, everything is possible!

Be quick and get some lovely asparagus into your kitchen as the season ends on the 24 of June.


Happy New Year!

New Years Dive, Scheveningen 2013: internet image.

New Years Dive, Scheveningen 2013: Internet Image.

In the Netherlands, people celebrate the ‘Oud en Nieuw’, which consists of Ouderjaarsavond (New Year’s Eve) and Nieuwjaarsdag (New Year’s Day). Ouderjaarsavond is typically spent with family and friends, enjoying sweet New Year treats such as oliebollen (fried flour dumplings) and apple beignets (apple fritters) while watching the Oudejaarsconference (a satirical summing up of the year by Dutch cabaratiers), accompanied by the periodic bangs of firecrackers, which would have started earlier in the day. The real explosion of firecrackers would be at the stroke of midnight, as people set off their own stash, often together with a whole array of fireworks, lighting the winter skies.

On Nieuwjaarsdag, the streets are normally covered with red paper from the firecrackers. The New Years Day Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic, which takes place every New Year morning in Vienna, Austria is popular and widely-viewed in the Netherlands. At noon, will be the famous traditional ‘Nieuwjaarsduik’ (New Years Dip) where swimmers brave the winter temperatures and take a cold plunge into the sea. This takes place in 102 locations across The Netherlands, with a record number of 40,000 participants for 2013. 10,000 were in Scheveningen.

The event, which started in 1960, is sponsored by Unox, a large soup company. Many of the swimmers, children and adults alike, wear bright orange ‘Unox’ hats as they run into the sea. Upon coming back to shore, they are rewarded with soup, usually the delicious traditional ewrtensoup (pea soup). The dive is to mark a bold, fresh start to the New Year!

Sinterklaas has come to Town!

Sinterklaas has arrived!

Sinterklaas (Sint Nikolaas/Saint Nicolas/St Nicholas) and his mischievous assistants, Zwarte Piet(en) arrived yesterday, by steamboat from Spain at harbours across the Netherlands. Sinterklaas the patron saint of children, who was a bishop from Myra, is a celebrated holiday figure in the Netherlands, Belgium and countries from the former Dutch Empire.

Sinterklaas is a distinguished elderly man with a very long white beard. He wears a bishops’s regalia, red and gold mitre and cape, and carries a gold staff and rides the rooftops on his white gray. He carries with him a huge red and gold book called ‘Het Grote Boek van Sinterklaas’ which contains the names of all children and if they have been good or bad.

Children from all over the country waited for Sinterklaas yesterday, lining up the streets from the harbours and into the cities. The crowd cheered as Sinterklaas and his procession went by, with marching bands and Zwarte Pieten in their colourful jester-like clothes, hats and feathers and ruffs, performing tricks, frolicking and drawing smiles and laughter from everyone, teasing both children and adults alike, and best of all, throwing handfuls of’pepernoten’ or spiced button-shaped cookies at the crowd.

Sinterklaas will be in the country over the next few weeks and on 5 and 6 December will be delivering presents to good children around the country. In the weeks before 5 December, children put their shoes by the fireplace. They leave a carrot, some hay and a bowl of water for Sinterklaas’ horse and sing a special Sinterklaas song. In the morning, they will find a surprise in their shoes!

And for older children and adults, whom Sinterklaas has stopped visiting, a ‘pakjesavond’ or presents evening is typically organised, where there will be an exchange of gifts. The gifts will be accompanied by humorous poems, usually making funny references about the recipient’s character.

Traditional festive Sinterklaas goodies are pepernoten, speculaas (spiced biscuits), almond paste filled letter-shaped pastry, marzipan items, gold coins and chocolate letters (in milk, dark or white chocolate).

Have a look at these special Sinterklaas Photos, from the NRC, 17 Nov 2012.

And do click here, to read about the origins of Zwarte Piet!

De Rijsttafel: The Story

Taken from: COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM De rijsttafel TMnr 3728-820.jpg/

The rijsttafel, literally meaning ‘rice table’ in Dutch, is an elaborate meal of many dishes (as many as one wishes!) accompanied by rice prepared in several ways (usually yellow rice, plain rice and spicy fried rice) and condiments such as acar (pickles), serundeng (roasted spiced grated coconut), kroepoek (crackers), roedjak (fruit in sweet sauce) and several types of sambal (chilli-based relishes). Common rijsttafel dishes to name a few are sate (grilled skewers of meat), gado-gado (vegetables with peanut sauce), perkedel (meat and potato croquettes), beef rendang (beef in spices and coconut milk), balado (chicken or fish in chilli sauce), opor ayam (chicken in coconut milk) and lodeh (vegetables in coconut milk).

Although the individual dishes are all Indonesian, the rijsttafel concept itself was started by Dutch colonials in the Dutch East Indies. It is said that the Dutch plantation owners had liked to sample selectively from Indonesian cuisine and the rijsttafel became the official way of serving a festive banquet. The presentation concept was apparently adapted from the presentation of food in Padang, Sumatra and during these banquets, a huge array of exquisite dishes from all over the Archipelago would be presented. ‘During its centuries of popularity in Dutch East Indies, lines of servants or sarong-clad waitresses ceremoniously served the marathon meal on platters laden with steaming bowls of fragrant foods. The first to be served was a cone-shaped pile of rice on a large platter, which the server placed in the center of the table. The servers then surrounded the rice platter with as many as 40 small bowls holding meat and vegetable dishes as well as condiments.’ (wiki)

The tradition was then brought back to The Netherlands, when Indonesia became independent in 1945, by the returning Dutch colonial families, exiled Indonesians and the Dutch Eurasians. Restaurants offering rijsttafel can be found all over the country, with a high concentration in Amsterdam and The Hague. The Hague, in particular, sometimes referred to as the ‘Widow of the Dutch East Indies’, was the the new home of many of the repatriates from the Dutch East Indies, is still the home of many special rijsttafel restaurants. On special occasions, for instance the annual Veteran’s Day, one can still see veterans visiting a couple of these restaurants, in their well-decorated uniforms, reunite with old comrades over lunch and reminisce their East Indies days. A famous one is the Garoeda Restaurant, which is located in a stately building on the Kneuterdijk, a stately part of The Hague. Founded in 1949 by a Mr Lensvelt, a Dutch East Indies repatriate, the restaurant still retains its very special atmosphere. Decorated with East Indische furniture, antiques and paraphernalia, the guests, welcomed and served by staff in formal, traditional uniforms, are transported back in time and partake of a splendid feast from the nostalgic days of yore.



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