Do Dutch have a potato-food fetish?

Let me start by asking you a question: ‘Have you ever tried a typical Dutch meal?’. If you’re not Dutch or ever been to the Netherlands, the answer will probably be “No”.
And that’s not surprising, because Dutch cuisine isn’t well-known. Just try and find a Dutch restaurant outside the Netherlands… you probably won’t be able to. Heck, it’s even difficult to find one in the Netherlands.

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But believe it or not, Dutch cuisine does exist and consists of three courses;
– soup
– main course
– desert.

This article concentrates on the main course, and specifically on the potato since it plays a crucial role in our meals.

A touch of tater history

The potato was discovered and domesticated thousands of years ago in Peru. Even though the potato was introduced to the Netherlands at around 1600, it wasn’t until 1740, when grain harvests all over Western Europe had failed, that we discovered that the potato grew well on our soil. That’s when we started to cultivate it more intensely and by 1770 the majority of Dutch farmers had adopted the potato as primary food source.

But in 1845 something happened that would change our potato business for the better; a fungus destroyed all potato crop growing on fertile ground, while potatoes planted on poor sandy soil appeared to be immune. It took us 45 years to fully exterminate the fungus and to grow a resistant potato breed. Because of this event we are today’s world leading supplier of seed potatoes.

Back to the famous Dutch main course

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A typical Dutch main course is focused around potatoes, meat and vegetables. There are only three simple rules to obtain a Dutch main course as pictured above;
1. Potatoes preferably are boiled, but can also be mashed, baked or fried
2. Vegetables are usually cooked
3. The meat must be properly baked and served with gravy (meat sauce).

That’s it. Pretty straight forward, right? So you see; “less is more” also applies to Dutch food.

But there is one main course variety that I would like to give special attention to; stammpot. Stamppot is “potato and vegetable mashed together” with the vegetable identifying the dish. You might know this type of dish as “Mash pot,” a dish often consumed during winter time. Oh, and please use a masher to make stamppot, never a blender!

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The best stamppot dishes

We have a variety of stamppot recipes in the Netherlands, but three are very popular. They are:

  • Stamppot boerenkool: This stamppot is Kale mashed with potato and usually served with rookworst (smoked sausage). Boerenkool is one of my favourites and is shown in the picture above. See the little dibhole in the kale where the gravy sits? That’s the proper way to serve Stamppot boerenkool.
  • Stamppot zuurkool: This stamppot is Sauerkraut mashed with potato and is served with a smoked sausage or, as I like it, big pieces of fried bacon. Sauerkraut is known as “sour vegetable”, but by mixing crispy fried bacon cubes the stammpot gets extra flavour making the dish really delicious. And as with any stammpot; a good gravy will finish it off.
  • Hutspot: This is a stamppot made from onion, carrot and potato (originally parsnip was used instead of potato). Since two vegetables are part of this mash pot it was simply called Hutspot, derived from the Dutch verb hutselen which means ‘to mix’. Today this dish is usually served with a piece of brisket. Even though we call it a classic Dutch dish, it was first consumed just after the second Siege of Leiden had ended, where this stew was cooked — and left behind — by our Spanish oppressors.
The verdict

Yes, we Dutch love potatoes.
And yes, we Dutch definitely love our stamppot.
But I wouldn’t go as far as to call us potato-food fetish. It made a good title, but that’s where I draw the line. Now if you excuse me, my stamppot spruiten (brussels sprout mash) needs devouring.

Eet smakelijk.


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