Traditionally, every Ukrainian girl learns how to cook borscht before getting married. Ukrainian dishes often use a number of ingredients. Borscht is a direct proof of this. Over time that number has decreased. However, the technique remains unchanged. Beef is placed in cold water to make a meat broth. Then the meat is taken out and other ingredients are added and cooked in a closed saucepan. Garlic fritters are given instead of bread and are called pampushki by locals.
This weekend there are still lots of us Dutchies who will be celebrating Sinterklaas with our families. Most families with small kids have however welcomed Sinterklaas and his helpers, the Pieten, on the 5th of December. Sinterklaas is not to be confused with Santa Claus although there are many theories out there claiming they might actually one and the same. They both have a white beard, wear a red “costume” and give candy and presents to all kids (and adults) who have behaved well the past year.
Most Dutch people celebrate a somewhat traditional Christmas. In the Netherlands there are two official Christmas days: first Christmas day on the 25th of December and second Christmas Day (Boxing day in the UK) on the 26th. Family and friends get together, if religious they will visit their church, cook, eat and drink together, play games and enjoy each other’s company but more and more (adult) people are also exchanging gifts with one another on Christmas nowadays.
Here in the office we are all hooked on the traditional mini Sinterklaas cookies called Pepernoten (Dutch Spiced Cookies). The best ones come with a layer of chocolate. Yummmmmmm. And the best thing is: It is really easy and fun to bake them yourself!
Hola! My name is Isabeau, I’m 20 years old and I am an Intern for English Education Group in Roosendaal, the Netherlands. When I was 6 years old my family moved from the Netherlands to Spain. I ended up living there for 8 years before returning to the Netherlands. I lived in Calpe, a town between Valencia and Alicante, mostly known for the rock “Peñon d’Ifach”.
Everything is different in Spain. You start primary school when you are 6 years old and go to secondary school when you are about 12. In the Netherlands, it is normal to go to school when you’re 4 years old. We have a half hour lunchbreak whereas in Spain we had a 3 hour lunchbreak. People in Spain are used to taking a “siesta” (a nap) after lunch. People in Spain eat a hot meal for lunch around 2 pm, and a sandwich for dinner around 9-10 pm. 90% of the kids at my school did not go home but had lunch together in a really large cafeteria. All the food we ate was Spanish and my favourite was Paella Valenciana.
Now that I’m a mom I try to make it every once in a while, when I have the time and energy, to give my son a little taste of the beautiful country that I grew up in. We also go and visit whenever we can to visit family and close friends.
Pour the olive oil in the Paella pan and let it warm up until it starts to smoke. Then, throw the chicken and rabbit meat in the pan and fry on a medium temperature until a brown crust gets visible. Add the vegetables and let stew. After a few minutes, move the meat and the vegetables to the border of the pan, to create room in the centre. Pour the peeled tomatoes in centre and let the broth sit for a few minutes before adding the paprika powder. Than let it stew for a few more minutes on a low temperature, to avoid burning the paprika powder.
Now fill the pan with water up to the border of the pan. Add a pinch of salt and let it boil for 30 minutes. If necessary add more water, but never let the broth get any higher than the handle of the pan. Taste the broth to see if you should add some more salt but keep in mind that the rice will absorb a lot of salt as well. Than you can add the saffron and rice, dividing it evenly throughout the pan. Make sure that all the rice gets covered by the broth.
Let the broth boil for another 7 minutes on high temperatures. Then, on a lower temperature, let it boil for another 4-5 minutes and add the rosemary branches. If there is still a lot of broth left after boiling, leave it for another 5-6 minutes. If not, beware that the paella can burn. In this case you can leave it for 3-4 minutes on a low temperature. A paella has to boil 14-16 minutes from which 7 on high temperatures.
Let the paella cool down a few minutes before serving. Que Aproveche!
Our colleague Sascha is originally from South Africa. She is willing to share a traditiona SA-recipe: Potjiekos.
A potjie is the pinnacle of all braai (BBQ) cuisine, it is what the south African boerman (Afrikaaner) works his way up to his whole life: The Perfect Potjiekos! This is the reason why my family reunions always manage to include a potjiekos competition. Parts of the family from different provinces are allocated a type of meat to include in their potjie. Typical choices include lamb, beef, wild boar or springbuck- the more exotic the better, which is how we ended up with a crocodile potjie! After a full day of preparations and “braaing”, the potjies are ready to be judged. Each member of our family gets to have a taste of all the potjies and have their say. This is when it really gets heated. There is no prize for the winner, other than bragging rights of course!
Experienced potjie chefs all share a few of the same attributes - they are excessively possessive of their fire, ensuring that it is never directly under the potjie pot but close enough to ensure the pot stays warm, and they are dead set against the idea of a stirring a spoon! To stir a potjie is to end the world as we know it! In order to ensure the best flavor experience, a potjie pot must be lined with oil and then the ingredients should be added according to the length of time they take to cook. The ingredients, such as meat, potatoes and carrots, which take the longest are layered at the bottom of the pot. Once these are settled in, you can then add more layers of veggies. Never stir! Add plenty, plenty wine or the famous OBS (Old Brown Sherry) and close the lid. Inside the pot it will become a steam room. The potjie is now left on the fire for a good 6 hours or longer. This is the time to “Kaier”. Kaier is the term used to describe hanging out with friends and family in a relaxed, warm and welcoming manner.
Now for the part you have been waiting for… The Recipe.
This recipe is originally from my aunt, Gaedry Graaff, who lives on and owns a wine farm, hint the extra pinotage being added to the pot! Blombos is a wildlife farm on the coast and is where they have their holiday house. This is usually where meals like this are enjoyed.
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