En nog een blog uit een verborgen hoekje van het internet (zo goed dat ik het niet meer kan vinden, dus het zal wel spoorloos zijn). Ik ben nog steeds, als het goed is, aan het Franse riviertje een boekje aan het lezen onder het genot van de lokale wijnen en spijzen. Misschien komt er wel een koken-op-de-camping-blog, voor maximale kneuterigheid. Maar eerst een heel verhaal over erwtensoep, ook weer qua onderwerp perfect getimed in augustus, gelukkig gevolgd door een zeer zomerse linzensoep. Bon appétit!
It is almost time for one of the most treasured dishes of Dutch cuisine: ‘erwtensoep’, also known as ‘snert’. For those not familiar with it, this is a robust split pea soup, a typical Dutch winter dish, warming and filling. My old and battered copy of the Huishoudschool cookbook, inherited from my grandma, tells me that it is made with green peas or split peas, potatoes, celery, leak and knob celery. There is also quite some meat involved: bacon or just ‘fat’, sausages, but also ‘kluif’ and ‘krabjes’ – a foot of a pig, and the ribs, nowadays called ‘krabbetjes’. I doubt if my supermarket manager will understand what I’m asking for. My copy of ‘Dutch Cooking’, a cookbook for tourists and emigrated Dutch, also tells us to add a ‘pig’s trotter’, which is the foot of a pig – and even suggests adding a ‘pig’s ear’. Well. That certainly is an interesting way of introducing people to our national pride.
The humble ingredients resulting in a heavy soup are telling of an era in which many foods were expensive and difficult to keep. Nonetheless, this pea soup is still very popular among Dutch people. Of course, only a few people take time and effort to actually make it and most people buy the canned version. Although we spend most of our days inside behind a screen instead of outside working the land, erwtensoep is part of our winter culture, our essential ice-skating food.
Although I can now and then appreciate a bowl full of this thick, green, heart-warming goodness, I prefer a soup made of the pea’s cousin: lentils. There is a restaurant I often go to, and for a while I ate the same thing over and over again: their Indian lentil soup. I could not get enough of the spices, the satisfying texture, the tang of the lime and the fresh coriander. After they took it of their menu, I had to make in myself. It has the same soul saving qualities as our pea soup, but this is more elegant, more exiting, with a promise of summer and longer days. You probably need to make a visit to your Moroccan supermarket to fetch all the spices, but it’s definitely worth it. Fenugreek might be difficult to obtain, but it really is a magical, very fragrant spice. Go find it.
Red Lentil Dahl
This will make enough for four people.
- 1 cup red or orange lentils
- 3 tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon black sesame seeds,
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds,
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds,
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon of dried pepper flakes or 1 fresh chili pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 2 lime, 1 juiced, 1 in quarts
- 8 sprigs coriander, stems chopped, leaves kept aside
Rinse the lentils in a fine sieve with cold water. Pour the lentils in a pan and add 3 cups of water. If you don’t own a measure cup, just use a mug. A cup is a little less than 250 millilitres – and this soup is not rocket science. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat once it is cooking and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes, until lentils are soft.
Now, you can choose to peel your tomatoes, but you can also leave the skin on if you’re in a hurry. To peel: cut an X shape in the top, and blanch in boiling water for about a minute. Transfer to cold water, and peel of the skin. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces, and set aside.
In a large pan, heat oil on medium heat. Add the onions, and fry until they are translucent. Add the garlic and fresh or dried pepper, stirring for a minute so it won’t burn. Add the five different seeds. Stir for two more minutes, and add the bay leaf and turmeric. Keep on stirring!
Add all of the cooked lentils and the cooking water to the onions, and add salt. Let it cook for about 10 minutes before adding the lime juice and tomatoes. Cook for a couple more minutes and give it a taste, add salt if needed. Stir in the chopped coriander and pour in large bowls, sprinkle generously with coriander leaves and a lime wedge. Serve with naan or Turkish flatbread.
1952  Recepten Huishoudschool, by F.M. Stoll, W.H. De Groot. ‘s-Gravenhage: De Gebroeders van Cleef
1972 Dutch Cooking by Heleen A.M. Halverhout, Amsterdam: De Driehoek