Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Quintet of Cuisines: Erwtensoep

This year I'm starting a big kitchen project, to read and cook through the Time-Life Foods of the World series. This set of books, published in late 60s into the early 70s, covers most of the world's major cuisines. For each cuisine covered, there's a hardback book, written by a well-known foodie of the time, plus a spiral-bound recipe book. The series is a bit skewed toward (North) American cooking with eight of the 28 books covering different varieties of American cooking, but it is fairly representative of the expanding American view of food at the time.

I bought the series as it was published and have been toting the set of books around for close to 40 years now and, while I've dipped into a few occasionally, I haven't seriously looked at most of them. So my plan is that starting each month I'll have six weeks to read and cook from one of the books. This isn't a julie and Julia thing where I'm cooking every recipe; I just want to read each book and then make a meal or several recipes from it.

Clearly this is a project that will take some time to complete. To make it more fun, I started a little group on Facebook for people to cook along. If you'd like to join in, go here.

The first book I'm cooking from is A Quintet of Cuisines. This covers the food of Switzerland, the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg), Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, and North Africa (Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco). How's that for a mix? Of course, none of these cuisines are adequately covered; there's just a (very) quick dip into the possibilities.

In December, Ed requested that I make some erwtensoep (the Dutch split pea soup) before too long, so that is my first effort from this book. When I turned to the recipe, I was surprised to see that some time in the past, I had marked the recipe for cutting down by half. No indication that I actually made it, but I've made erwtensoep fairly frequently (it's kind of a a once-a-year thing), so I might have used this recipe at some point.

The soup starts off by boiling green split peas with pig's feet and salt pork for three hours. There were no pig's feet at the shop (I saw them a month ago, but not in the last two weeks) and salt pork I don't know in France, so I used a chunk poitrine fumé, which translates as smoked breast of pork. It looks like a chunk of (American) bacon. I don't suppose the exact cut of meat actually matters too much here, as long as it a part of a pig that wants to be simmered for a long while. (Now that I think of it, I don't recall ever seeing pig's feet in the Netherlands, not in the meat case, or at the butcher's, or in a jar. But maybe it's something I just ignored.) I had a bit of home-made chicken stock left from something else at one point and threw that in too.) Here we are a-simmering. 

When the long simmering is done, you add chopped up veggies, potatoes, leeks, celeriac, and celery leaves and simmer another 30 minutes. My celeriac, cut into 1/4" dice, was still not done at the end of this time. I think it would be better to add this first for 30 minutes, then add the rest of the veg for another 30 minutes.

Now you take out the meat (pig's feet and salt pork, or in my case the chunk of poitrine), remove any skin, gristle, and bones, then chop up the meat and add back to the soup with sliced sausage, summer savory, and black pepper. In this recipe, kielbasa is the recommended sausage, I'm thinking because they gave a recipe for this in the Polish section. In my experience, this is usually a (Dutch) smoked sausage, which for me is a good enough reason to make this soup. A couple of months ago there were some French smoked sausages on sale and we bought three links. One was plenty for my half recipe, but I'm not sure you can have too much sausage. (My French sausage was a bit coarser inside than a rookworst, but still worked quite well.) Simmer this all for a bit and serve.

Well, Ed said, it tastes like the real thing. And it did! I only missed the roggebrood met katenspek to go with it.

I made half of a recipe that says it serves 8-10. We'll have 3-4 servings from that. (One of us ate a huge second bowl; it wasn't me. :-)

1 comment:

  1. When I was growing up in Canada, my mother always made the soup with ham hocks, which were readily available. The only place I've ever seen pigs feet here is in the Landmarkt, which is like a collection of individual shops in a supermarket, and even there only once or twice. I suspect you have to place a special order with the butcher. Why bother when it's easily substituted. One of my friends uses smoked chicken breast instead.