Kruidnoten & Taai Taai – Dutch Holiday Treats for Sinterklaas

If the title sounds foreign to you, then chances are that you have not yet had the pleasure of enjoying typical Dutch treats that make their appearance during the holiday season. Tomorrow, December 5,  is Sinterklaas – the day on which children across the Netherlands wait in anticipation for the gifts that Sinterklaas or Saint Nicolas brought them.

Much like the Santa Claus tradition in most English speaking countries, Sinterklaas is something that’s exciting if you have children in the family. Traditionally, he arrives sometime in November. The event is marked with much fanfare  – Sinterklaas and his helper Zwarte Piet (literally, black Peter, this character has become the centre of a controversy related to race and skin color very recently in the Netherlands – quite surprising considering the origins of the character are unrelated to race and has survived for centuries) arriving by steamboat in Amsterdam.

dutch spiced cookies


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Chicken Satay & Satay Sauce

We love Asian food in all its guises – diverse Indian dishes and subtly flavoured Chinese ones, the various kinds of nasi you get throughout south east Asia, the fusion cuisine of Malaysia…the list goes on. I have also always loved recreating these dishes in my own kitchen. Whenever an attempt at making a rendang or a nasi lemak turns out well, I am over joyed!

asian satay recipe

Indonesian cuisine is very dear to Peter’s heart (what with the Dutch connection to Indonesia) especially as he grew up in Holland. As a child, a visit to the local Chinese restaurant was a much anticipated event for him. These Chinese restaurants actually serve a combination of Chinese and Indonesian dishes, something that’s unique to them and cannot be easily found outside of the Netherlands.

asian grilled chicken

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Suikerbrood – Dutch Sugar Bread

This is my first serious kitchen project in more than 2 months. We spent the last couple of months travelling through Asia and while it was a memorable trip, I’m glad to be back in the kitchen among the pots and pans.

Suikerbrood is a sticky sweet loaf of bread that’s traditionally eaten during Easter in Holland. I’ve never had an authentic Dutch one but since we’re in a cosy little corner in France with Peter’s parents nearby, it seemed like the perfect setting to bake a loaf of this sugary bread.

sugar loaf

bread for easter

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Dutch Pannenkoeken

We recently made a weekend trip to Holland to join Peter’s family for a get-together. The Dutch love camping, so it was no surprise that the venue was a camping site where everybody converged with their caravans and camping paraphernalia. We were the only ones who didn’t have our own little home-on-wheels and were put up in a tent attached to one of the caravans parked there. Although I’ve been on a camping trip, travelling in a campervan through the length and breadth of New Zealand, I was a bit apprehensive about the arrangement. However, my doubts were unfounded as soon as we got to the camping site.

It was a lovely secluded spot surrounded by woods with lush greenery all around not to mention the excellent facilities all around the site. At night, we lay in our little tent listening to the sounds of crickets and other nocturnal creatures outside, reminding me of home and Indian summers.

One of the highlights of our short trip was dinner at the pancake restaurant. The Dutch eat both sweet and savoury pancakes for dinner instead of breakfast. Apparently, pancake restaurants exist all across the country and are popular dining spots for families. So there we were, the entire clan, the old, the young, babies, and children all eagerly awaiting our hot pancakes from the kitchen.

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Dutch Spiced Loaf

Baking has always intrigued me and ovens were always mysterious electrical appliances never to be played with. The only oven I was ever familiar with while growing up was an old fashioned contraption my mom used to bake an occasional cake. Once that broke down, that was the end of her baking experiments. Unfortunately, my father in spite of being a food lover,  had no interest whatsoever in freshly baked goods simply because baking was not really part of our food culture. This meant that the poor oven was never repaired or replaced and we never had a home baked cake ever after that.

Years later, here I am in Ireland and in the process of adapting to Western ways of life, I’ve slowly and surely grown confident of using the oven on a regular basis. To keep this confidence up, I felt the need to bake something, a loaf of bread, a cake, something that would give me a smug sense of satisfaction. That’s how I decided to try a recipe from Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra’s gorgeous book, ‘Warm Bread and Honey Cake’. It’s a wonderful collection of baking related recipes from different parts of the world and brings exotic flavours and their stories from around the globe straight into your kitchen.

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